On Sunday, Larry Fedora approached the Red Bank, N.J. junior about the move. Tabb (12 catches, 144 yards, TD) was recruited by Florida, West Virginia and Michigan State to play defense out of high school, but his preference was to play tight end.
The second-year UNC head coach wasn’t considering a permanent move, however. With only five healthy linebackers practicing, including a pair of walk-ons, Tabb’s athleticism could be utilized on both sides of the ball.
During the conversation, Fedora stressed his importance on the offensive side of the ball and informed him that his tight end role would not be adversely affected, according to Tabb.
“Jack is probably one of our brightest football players as far as his football savvy,” Fedora told reporters following Monday’s practice. “He really is; he understands. We feel like we can throw Jack over, let him learn base defense right now as a linebacker, learn some things about it, bring him back in three or four days and throw him back in at tight end and he’ll know it like its nothing.”
The decision was made at this point of camp due to there being enough time – 17 days until the season opener at South Carolina – for Tabb to take enough snaps to learn the position.
“We’re thin and we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do,” offensive coordinator Blake Anderson said. “I’d rather have him with me 24/7, but I know he’s a great football IQ guy. He understands our system extremely well; probably one of the highest IQ guys we’ve got on the offensive side.
“If it ends up being a situation where we’ve got to use him over there, then we’ve got to do what the team needs.”
Anderson praised Tabb’s work through the first half of training camp, noting that the 6-foot-3, 240-pounder arrived in great shape and has been “running stride-for-stride with [Eric] Ebron.”
Junior walk-on Eric Albright’s emergence at tight end has provided depth at the position, according to Anderson.
Tabb practiced solely with the linebackers during Monday morning’s practice, UNC’s 13th of training camp.
“It was pretty natural – see ball, hit ball, and try not to get decleated,” Tabb said.
Linebackers Nathan Staub, Travis Hughes and Jeff Schoettmer immediately offered their help to Tabb in helping learning the defensive playbook. Tabb described the opportunity to play both ways as an honor, highlighting the fact that so few college players actually do it.
“He’s got a great attitude about it, he’s willing to do it and I think he’s capable of at least helping us in a limited role there,” Anderson said.
One silver lining involved is the possibility of Tabb earning a chance to blow up Ebron over the middle.
“Hopefully I get to see Eric a couple of times in practice,” Tabb said. “Just once, just once – I need him out there personally, too.”