One could say that Ebenezer Ekuban’s occasional work at defensive tackle was the final stage of a transformation that began a decade ago at the University of North Carolina.
Early in his Chapel Hill matriculation, Ekuban lined up at tight end before moving to the defensive side of the football. The leap from tight end to defensive end is a gargantuan one in terms of game play, but the size of players at the two positions is fairly similar, and the players at these positions often face off against each other on a given play.
Recently, though, Ekuban’s career took another detour, with the starting end spending more time working as a defensive tackle.
“It’s a speed factor thing, trying to create speed in our defense and getting our best guys in different situations, different areas,” defensive coordinator Larry Coyer said. “It’s just a matter of adjustment through the course of time.”
“I’m getting comfortable with it,” Ekuban said. ” I ain’t going to lie to you, it’s definitely taking some time getting adjusted to it — moreso just the physical nature of being pounded every play. That’s the only part that’s getting adjusted to, but, I think my greatest asset is my speed, and that helps me out in there.”
With 5.5 sacks this year, he’s already exceeded his team-leading total of four from last year, although he ranks behind fellow defensive ends Kenard Lang and Elvis Dumervil on the team’s 2006 sack log.
But Ekuban’s managed to keep pace with his teammates while learning a new way to play — one more reflective of his new position.
“At end, you can narrow your base and put your tail up, and you can go get that quarterback, but inside, man, you have to make sure you have a good, wide base and know that you’re going to face two guys most of the time and your mentality is just different,” Ekuban said.
“Instead of just saying, ‘Hey, let’s get to the quarterback,’ I’m thinking more of using my power rushes to try to let things open up.”
And Coyer feels that Ekuban’s skills will serve him well in his work on the inside.
“It’s different, but not so much different,” Coyer said. “Sometimes quickness is a great advantage there.”
Even if his journey from tight end to work as a defensive tackle involved a lengthy path.