"Athletically he's pretty special," UNC tight ends coach Walt Bell said. "Athletically Eric's as good as anybody I've ever been around."
With a 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame, Ebron has been a tough matchup for opposing defenses in his first run in new coach Larry Fedora's offense. He's too big and strong for cornerbacks, he's often too fast for linebackers and he's proven he has good enough hands to make plays downfield. Ebron is the team's second-leading receiver with 35 catches for a team-high 546 yards and three touchdowns. His blocking has also been reliable in opening holes for star rusher Gio Bernard.
"Coach Bell called me before they even got here (last year) and said, 'We use our tight ends, just stick around, don't worry about a thing,'" Ebron said. "I was like, 'Yeah, we'll see how they use their tight ends.' And when I got in here, they really do utilize their tight ends and make sure they excel. Being that I have all these extra abilities and this size, they really do use it to the extreme."
Ebron had already set the program's yardage record for a tight end, surpassing the 448 yards by Mike Chatham in 1979, before he had four catches for 79 yards in the 43-35 win against N.C. State. He can tie Ryan Taylor's record of 36 catches in 2010 when the Tar Heels host Georgia Tech on Nov. 10.
Ebron played defensive end and tight end in high school at Greensboro Smith, so the two-way duties against the Wolfpack was nothing new.
With the Tar Heels (6-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) in a bye, the focus now is for Ebron to clean up smaller mistakes and inconsistency. There have been a handful of drops this season, while his false-start penalty in the final seconds of UNC's frantic failed comeback at Louisville came after the Tar Heels had driven to the Cardinals 3-yard line for a possible go-ahead score.
Bell said Ebron's biggest challenge currently "is majoring in the details." If he does, Ebron has the potential to accomplish even more.
"He's a big-bodied guy that knows how to use his body," Fedora said. "He's definitely a weapon for us all over the field."