Brewer: Ebron's Big Start Not A Surprise
by Rick Brewer, Sports Information Director Emeritus
CHAPEL HILL - There are almost as many summer football predictions as there are second guesses in the fall. Finally, one of them seems to have been correct.
Eric Ebron entered his junior year as one of the most highly-regarded players in college football. The Tar Heel tight end won pre-season All-America honors based on his accomplishments in 2012. Professional scouts called him potentially the best tight end in the country.
He has proven in Carolina's first three games that all that attention was deserved. He has already set a school record for career receiving yards by a tight end.
Ebron heads into Saturday's game with 13 receptions for 200 yards and a 15.4 yards-per-catch average this year. He had a one-handed, 19-yard touchdown catch last week at Georgia Tech that will remain on everyone's highlight reel for the rest of the season.
"As soon as I released the ball, I knew it was too high," said quarterback Bryn Renner. "I can't imagine anyone else going up so high and pulling in such a hard thrown ball with just one hand.
"It's hard to believe there is a better tight end in the country. He runs great routes and knows how to improvise to get open. But, he also catches the ball so well in traffic. If that wasn't enough, he's also a good blocker."
Ebron, a 6-4, 265-pound junior from Greensboro, had 40 catches last fall for 625 yards and four touchdowns. His catches and yardage set Carolina single-season records for a tight end.
Ebron saw reserve action as a freshman. He entered this year with career totals of 50 catches, 832 reception yards and five touchdowns.
His 106 yards on six catches last week pushed his career yardage total to 1,032. That moved him past Zack Pianalto and Tony Blanchard for the most ever by a Carolina tight end. He has 63 receptions in his time here and a 16.4 yards-per-catch average.
Coach Larry Fedora set another goal for Ebron during pre-season practice. Fedora said Ebron should make at least 12 touchdown catches this fall. That would tie the school record held by Hakeem Nicks and Dwight Jones.
A 12-touchdown season would give Ebron 17 for his career. Only Nicks, Art Weiner and Octavus Barnes have ever caught more than that.
RENNER IN THE RECORD BOOKS--Quarterback Bryn Renner has continued to move up the Carolina career passing and total offense lists.
Renner has not played as well as he would have liked in the Tar Heels' first three games this fall. But, he has still completed 63 of 106 passes for 751 yards and four touchdowns.
That gives him career totals of 579 completions, 880 attempts, a passing percentage of .658, 7,207 yards and 58 touchdowns.
His 58 touchdown passes ties him with T.J. Yates for the second most in school history. Darian Durant holds the Carolina record with 68.
Renner ranks third in career completions behind Yates (795) and Durant (701). Yates (9,377) and Durant (8,755) are the only Tar Heels to throw for more yardage. Renner's current career passing percentage ranks as the highest in Carolina's record book. Yates is second at .623.
Durant (9,630) and Yates (9,044) are the only Tar Heels with more total offense than Renner (7,149). He set the single-season school record for total offense last fall with 3,394.
Renner should be responsible for more career touchdowns by the end of the year than any other player. He now has 61, throwing for 58 and rushing for three others. His total now ranks ahead of Charlie Justice's 53 and trails only Durant's 79.
PIRATES ARE NEXT--East Carolina provides the opposition Saturday for what should be a huge weekend in Chapel Hill.
This is Parents' Weekend at the University so the town will be even more crowded than it usually is for a home football game. Plus, Saturday is also Military Appreciation Day in Kenan Stadium.
The two teams have started the season in different fashion. Carolina is 1-2 with road losses at South Carolina and Georgia Tech. The Pirates have opened with three straight home games and are 2-1. The lone setback was a 15-10 loss to Virginia Tech. That was two weeks ago so East Carolina has had an extra week to prepare for this game.
The Pirate offensive leaders have been quarterback Shane Carden and wide receiver Justin Hardy. Carden has completed 82 of 110 passes (74.5 percent) for 796 yards and eight touchdowns. Hardy has 26 catches for 258 yards and one touchdown.
Two years ago Hardy had 10 receptions against the Tar Heels in Greenville. But, Bryn Renner threw four touchdown passes in a 35-20 Carolina win. That game saw ECU quarterback Domonique Davis complete 41 of 58 passes for 417 yards. That's the most completions by any opposing quarterback against the Tar Heels.
But, Carolina bolted to an early 21-0 lead. The Pirates moved the ball well, but could never get back into the game after that fast Carolina start.
Renner completed 13 of 20 passes for 230 yards. He threw scoring passes of 11 yards to Jheranie Boyd and 75 yards to Eric Highsmith and Gio Bernard added a 10-yard touchdown run as the Tar Heels built their early lead. Renner later threw 47 and four yards to Dwight Jones for the final two Tar Heel scores.
Last year's game was completely different as Carolina limited the Pirates to just 223 yards of total offense in a 27-6 victory. Renner completed 27 of 43 passes for 321 yards. He had scoring throws of 14 yards to Bernard and 62 yards to Sean Tapley.