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In search of the right mix, Cavs experiment offensively

Dan Ellis is not a rollout quarterback.

He will be the first one to tell you that.

But if you watched Saturday's game against North Carolina, you might have thought otherwise. The Virginia offense rolled Ellis to the left and to the right.

Neither worked.

Two of Ellis' three interceptions against the Heels occurred when the new starter was on the move. The most glaring of those mistakes came at the end of the first half as a Virginia scoring opportunity quickly turned into a Carolina touchdown.

With Ellis rolling to his left, he broke what he deemed "the golden rule." He tried to throw across his body to tailback Thomas Jones, who was crossing the middle.

The quarterback's pass sailed high. Really high. So high, in fact, that Jones thought the pass was to a teammate downfield -- so he pulled down his arm. Tar Heel defender Antwan Black picked off the floater and took it to paydirt.

Carolina 9. Virginia 3.

However, the third-year signal caller said he thinks his biggest mistake wasn't even an interception. While rolling out on one play, he tried to force the issue.

"I made my worst mistake on a rollout and it wasn't the interception," Ellis said in Monday's press conference. "I think it was when I rolled out in the third quarter and forced the pass to [tight end] Billy [Baber] and I overthrew him.

"That one was almost intercepted," he said. "I think that was one of my bigger mistakes, because I knew I shouldn't have thrown that pass."

So if Ellis is not a rollout quarterback, one question remains.

Why? Why call plays that send Ellis on the move?

Well in one word: experimentation.

In addition to Ellis' inexperience as a starter, the No. 19 Cavaliers have a new offensive coordinator in Gary Tranquill. And in order for Virginia to be successful, he must figure out what Ellis does best. Therefore, Tranquill tries new things, different offensive sets and additional plays.

One fact he probably discovered in Saturday's 20-17 win was that Ellis isn't exactly comfortable with rolling out of the pocket. With that in mind, will Tranquill try to incorporate some plays where Ellis can roll out against Clemson this weekend?

"I don't know about that," Ellis laughed knowingly.

If the Cavs don't call for Ellis to move out of the pocket, then they can try some other things. The Cavaliers could have him take a three-, five- or seven-step drop and throw. They could use play action to buy him some time.

Ellis could be asked to throw several timing patterns. How about some quick slants? Perhaps the Cavs will use the offensive backfield as a passing option.

"I don't think we have one thing yet that [Coach Tranquill] knows I'm comfortable with," Ellis said. "We're just going to have to keep working on it."

In other words: keep on experimenting.