July 1, 2009

UNC's Elleby sees switch as positive

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - When North Carolina lineman Greg Elleby switched positions in the spring, he had to go on the offensive with his mentality if he hoped to make a successful transition.

A defensive lineman for his first three seasons on campus, Elleby is now an offensive guard. The move places him in a position to earn more playing time, and it will benefit the team if he is successful.

Nonetheless, it has not been without its sacrifices. The ego of a defensive lineman often rejects the idea of moving to offense.

"I felt a little bit down at first, but I kept looking at it as a positive," Elleby said. "I knew it would help my team out."

The reason for the change is simple: need.

The Tar Heels could play as many as 10 defensive linemen in a game rotation this fall; whereas, offensive line coach Sam Pittman is battling just to have a true two-deep across the offensive line. And playing the offensive line is much tougher for most young players than moving in quickly along the defensive line, so it will be difficult for the freshmen to come in and have a significant impact this fall at that position.

Coach Butch Davis came to Elleby two days into spring practice and suggested the junior make the switch.

"He told me it would be a great move for me," Elleby said. "It will give me a better shot at playing and just being on the field."

Elleby said that the difference in opportunity helped to smooth the transition.

"Defensive linemen, we want to give the hits, not take the hits," Elleby said. "I was that type of person. But now I really like it. My old buddies on the defensive line, I like going against them. I'm really enjoying it."

He spent much of spring practice just learning what to do.

"During spring ball, the basic thing with me was learning the plays," Elleby said.

Since then, he's been focusing more on how to do it.

"This summer, I'm still learning the plays, but I'm working more on my technique, working on my steps, working on pulling," he said.

The greatest challenge, Elleby said, is becoming a better run-blocker.

"If I focus on that a lot and do great at that," Elleby said, "I will be on the field every game. I want to be a player that can help the team."

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