Turner's Take: Monday Musings
The big news to come out of Carolina football’s Monday press conference was the announcement that junior tight end Eric Ebron would forgo his senior season and enter next April’s NFL Draft. Ebron said he opted to make the announcement now so that he could focus on his next two Carolina football games without any further stress, and so that he could be recognized alongside Carolina’s seniors prior to Saturday’s game with Duke.
“Family,” Ebron said when asked what when into the decision, “coaches, and just overall thought of this being the best decision possible.” Ebron seemed to point to his performance in the Miami game as the turning point in the process. Against the Hurricanes, the tight end hauled in eight catches for 199 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown. Through 11 games, Ebron leads the Tar Heels with 50 catches for 774, and he has three scoring catches. He said he made the decision now so that his mother could experience his last game at Kenan. “She’s the reason why I’m here, she’s the reason why I decided to declare for the draft, she’s the reason why I play football, and she’s the reason why I’m born,” he said. “My mom plays a role in everything. She has the final say-so in 95 percent of my life. The other five percent’s when I’m on PlayStation,” he said, showcasing his trademark wit.
“I’m proud of what Eric has accomplished and how he has represented the University of North Carolina and I’m excited for him and his future,” head coach Larry Fedora said. “This was a good decision by him and his family and I fully support it. We’ll be sad to see him go, but excited also for his future.”
Ryan Switzer had a fourth punt return for a touchdown Saturday against Old Dominion, tying him for the single-season ACC record and putting him one off the NCAA mark. And considering that he’s had all four of those returns in the last three games, Switzer has taken a giant leap forward in his playmaking ability as a freshman. Fedora said Switzer was no longer overwhelmed by his thoughts on returns, not thinking too much but instead reacting instinctually. It has helped that he now better trusts his return team, the other ten guys on the field.
“It helps a lot, knowing who’s being blocked, who’s getting double teamed, knowing your guys out there,” Switzer said. “I trust every single one of the guys that are in front of me. They do a great job and they take it seriously. That’s the main thing. Without those ten guys up front, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing.”
“He knows they’ve got his back,” Fedora said of Switzer and his blockers. “He’s never had that type of blocking and protection on a return unit probably in his life, and he knows those ten guys are going to give every ounce of what they’ve got and there are going to be things created.”
Switzer said he empathized with Wes Welker and the Denver Broncos punt return team. The Broncos turned the ball over in overtime when Welker and teammate Tony Carter didn’t communicate well. The ball hit Carter and the Patriots recovered, setting up a game-winning field goal. “It’s not easy; even the pros do it,” Switzer said. “In my personal opinion, I thought [Welker] should have run up and fair-caught it. I can’t speak for him, because I wasn’t in his shoes, but I know Coach Fedora wouldn’t have been too happy with me if I would have let that one hit the ground.”
Freshman Brian Walker had just one tackle against Old Dominion but broke up four passes to prevent big plays. Fedora said Walker is one of several true freshmen who, like Switzer, have gotten better every week. The coach said cornerback is one of the most difficult positions on the field because if mistakes are made, they’re obvious. But, “Brian has no fear,” Fedora said. “He doesn’t mind getting up in your face and playing you. He’s one of those guys that’s got the right mentality as a corner. He’s got that short-term memory. He doesn’t worry about one play to the next. It’s playing the play that he’s got and if something bad happens, he understands that that’s just part of the business and he moves on to the next play.”