After playing the first three years of his North Carolina career as a defensive end, rising fourth-year junior Greg Elleby has made a position switch this week. Head coach Butch Davis spoke about Elleby's move from defensive end to offensive guard following Wednesday's practice.
"We're looking at him (Elleby) at guard. We actually started that on Monday," said Davis. "We've got a depth issue in the offensive line going into the spring time, and Greg is a good kid. We're kind of doing with him like we've done with so many of these other kids---Deunta Williams and stuff (moving from one side of the ball to the other),"
The Tar Heels have lost two seniors at the guard position from the 2008 season, and multi-year starter Aaron Stahl is sitting out this spring coming off shoulder surgery, which helped necessitate the position switch for Elleby.
"With Bryon Bishop being gone and with Calvin Darity being gone---we lose those two guys at the guard position---we've got Jonathan Cooper and a couple of (other) guys," said Davis. "With Aaron Stahl having the shoulder surgery, it put us one guy down anyway."
The UNC coaches came to Elleby with the scenario of changing from defensive end to guard based on the fact that with the current roster, the rising fourth-year junior has a significantly better chance of entering the two-deep on offense.
"We approached him (Elleby) and we said, 'Look, we've got a little bit of depth in the defensive line. You've got a chance, if you'll come over and just give it an honest effort and take a look at it---we don't know if it's going to work---but we want to give you a chance to try to find a way to get into the two-deep, to where you could make a significant contribution, have a chance to play.'" said Davis.
That's how it came to pass that Elleby, changing from a white No. 95 jersey to a navy blue No. 67 jersey, was seen in Wednesday's practice working out with the second team offensive line along with teammates such as Carl Gaskins, Mike Dykes, and Kevin Bryant.
There is no set timetable on how long Elleby will remain at guard, but the coaches will use the next several weeks to extensively evaluate him on offense to see if there's a legitimate chance he can help the Tar Heels there in the coming season.
"It's not etched in stone. I don't know if it will be a five-day experiment, a 15-day experiment, or a two-year experiment," Davis said. "At the end of spring practice, when it's all over with, we'll sit there and talk to Sam Pittman and talk to Greg and just see where we are and kind of project, 'Okay, if he has the entire summer, and he had all of training camp, could he conceivably work himself into a position that he could be in the two-deep and get a chance to play?'"
Davis and others on the UNC coaching staff feel that Elleby could become a good fit as an offensive lineman because of his size, his familiarity with the college game having to go against opposing linemen the past couple of seasons, and the fact that he brings a defensive lineman's mentality to the interior trenches.
"He's a junior. He's 6-5 ½. He's 305 pounds. He's got long arms. He can run. He's got a defensive mentality, which makes him a tough guy," said Davis. "He's done a nice job. It's a good experiment. I like what I've seen. I mean, he's tough. He's aggressive. He's willing, and we'll see where it goes."