After spending his first three North Carolina seasons as a defensive tackle, senior Tavares Brown was converted to the offensive line this week as result of the team's dire need for experienced depth on that side of the ball.
Brown started his transition to offensive guard and center on Tuesday, according to UNC head coach Butch Davis.
"We moved Tavares Brown over (to offense). We talked to him a little bit about it at the end of last week, and just judge his willingness (to move over)," said Davis.
Brown, a former offensive and defensive lineman during his days at Rockingham (N.C.) Richmond County, found himself playing behind several healthy defensive tackles on the UNC roster.
With his strength and his experience, however, the coaches thought him to be a natural candidate to move over to offense at a time when the Tar Heel offensive line is in dire straits in terms of depth.
"When we considered it, he (Brown) was the logical candidate, because it (the D-line) is the one area that we have a little bit of depth," Davis said. "He (Brown) played in the offensive line in high school. It's been a long time since he's played there, but he's an older, more experienced veteran guy. He's smart. He's been playing football for a long time. He practiced there (this week), and it will be a learning curve."
While Davis doesn't project Brown to be ready for Saturday's game against East Carolina with only four offensive practices under his belt, the opportunity to move over to the offensive line realistically gives Brown a very good chance of seeing significant game action before the 2009 season is completed.
"It's theoretically almost impossible for him to be ready to make any kind of a contribution by this Saturday, but hopefully every week will put him a little bit closer to us evaluating him and finding out, 'Could he help us from a depth standpoint?" he said.
While Brown is not as big in terms of height as most interior offensive linemen, he does bring tenacity and aggressiveness that comes with three full seasons as a collegiate defensive tackle.
While Davis naturally hopes that Brown does bring tenacity over to his new position, he was quick to point out that it's unfair to instantly assume that defensive linemen are inherently tougher or nastier than offensive linemen.
"I think traditionally thinking, sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that defensive guys are these tough, nasty, aggressive guys, and offensive guys are these marshmallows---soft---and it's not true," Davis said. "You can be just as aggressive in the offensive line as you can as a defensive player."
The biggest adjustment in terms of going from the offensive to the defensive line for Brown will be learning all the offensive plays, all the footwork and blocking schemes, and most importantly, being able to think critically 'in the moment' during the heat of battle and make important decisions in a fraction of a second.
The fact that he's a senior gives the UNC coaches hope that if called upon, Brown could go into the game and hold his own.
"It takes a different mindset, because now you're thinking a little bit more on the offensive side," said Davis. "There's a lot more things to try to process, so that's why it usually takes offensive linemen longer in their career to become good players."
"We felt like because of his age and his maturity that he (Brown) might be able to do something in the next couple of weeks," he added.