Ebron Eager to Meet Expectations

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Earlier this summer, Larry Fedora said the only position on the team he believes has adequate depth is tight end. Despite no upperclassmen on the roster at that position, expectations are high for the tight ends and sophomore Eric Ebron in particular.

The departure of four-year starting tight end Zack Pianalto left a void at the tight end spot entering the 2011 season. Ebron, at that time a true freshman, was in position to contend for the starting job and quickly earned attention from the fan base due to his athleticism and size.

Despite putting up decent numbers last fall (11 rec, 207 yards, 1 TD), Ebron hit a small speed bump when he was ruled academically ineligible before the Independence Bowl in December. However, after a lot of hard work on and off the field, the Greensboro, N.C. product is now back in good academic standing.

"I just took into consideration what everybody said," Ebron told reporters at Saturday's Meet the Heels event. "They all expect me to be a breakout player or to do great things this season, so I plan on it. I work hard at it. I make sure that if I make a mistake, that I do the same thing over again or I repeat it until I get it right."

With his academic issues behind him, expectations are once again ramped up for Ebron. The positive outlook is not only due to his talent, but also because of the new high-speed spread offense implemented by Fedora. According to the first-year head coach, 40 to 50 receptions are expected from tight ends in his system. Tar Heel tight ends caught a combined 33 balls in 2011.

"[Tight end] was important in the past, but not as important as it is now, because really we play a decoy or we play a playmaker, so we have to go either way," Ebron said. "It plays a major role.

"I consider myself just an overgrown receiver anyways. If I had a 4.4 or 4.3 40 [yard dash] I probably would be playing receiver, but I believe that I can be a better asset to this team by doing what I need to do as coach Fedora demands and what this offense applies."

In order to achieve his goals and meet his expectations, Ebron not only worked hard in the classroom during the offseason, but also focused on catching the ball and running better routes on the field. He credits strength and conditioning coach Lou Hernandez for helping not only him, but the entire team, get stronger and faster.

Despite the challenges ahead, Ebron intends to stay focused thanks to the support system in place. After all, football is a team sport and the sophomore can lean on teammates for advice and guidance as he prepares to begin what many expect to be a breakout season.

"[Eric] was kind of like me last year," quarterback Bryn Renner said. "I was in the same shoes they are in. I didn't play two snaps my whole career until last year and was thrust into being the starting quarterback. I always tell them, it comes with making plays. When guys see you make plays, they have more confidence in you and it comes in practice… you don't have to do it all by yourself."

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