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February 27, 2012Six former Tar Heels are looking to work their way into a high selection this week at the annual NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis.
UNC is well-represented at the event, as Dwight Jones, Quinton Coples Zach Brown, Tydreke Powell, Charles Brown, and Donte Paige-Moss were all invited to participate.
The Combine began on Saturday with offensive linemen and tight ends, but UNC didn't have any players in those particular categories this year.
That category figures to change in the coming years though, as guys such as Travis Bond, Jonathan Cooper, Brennan Williams, and James Hurst will all look to play their way into the NFL.
Sunday was perhaps the most highly-anticipated day of the event, as all the speedsters and top-tier athletes came out for the workouts of the running backs, wide receivers, and quarterbacks.
It was a tremendous opportunity for Jones to work his way up the pecking order in a deep class of wide receivers, and it was a day of mixed results for the former Tar Heel.
In the 40-yard dash Jones first ran a 4.57, and then ran a time of 4.46 seconds, which created quite a buzz.
On the NFL Combine draft tracker page, he is credited with an official time of 4.55 seconds.
Jones added 14 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press, and a 33 inch vertical jump.
While the 40 yard dash times may have helped Jones, he was criticized by some Combine observers for a perceived lack of desire during some of the drills, as well as running a wrong route.
In a year where there's a bunch of quality receiver prospects, Jones is potentially looking at getting drafted anywhere from the second round to the fourth round.
It will be important for Jones to show the necessary attitude and desire to endear himself to NFL franchises as he takes part in individual workouts in the coming weeks.
Effort and desire were concerns at times in college for Jones, so that perception is something he'll have to work around. Without question his playmaking ability, as well as putting up solid numbers in Indy, should help him.
Monday at the Combine moved into the defense, as the defensive linemen and linebackers took center stage.
One of the headliners of the entire Combine is Coples, who is projected as a high first rounder and perhaps even a top five selection.
Coples predictably is getting a lot of attention in Indianapolis this week---the NFL Network even did a special segment with the two-time All-ACC selection working out with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Warren Sapp and former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci.
Mariucci immediately made the comparison to former Tar Heel Julius Peppers, but Coples said he was ready to make his own mark.
"I'm going to set my own tempo and I want to set my own footprint, but he (Peppers) is definitely a great player," Coples said. "But I'm doing my own thing."
Coples did what he had to do right out of the gate in the 40-yard dash Monday morning, running an official time of 4.78 seconds, which ranked seventh among all defensive linemen participating in the Combine.
In the various bag, shuttle, and stepping drills, Coples showed the athleticism that Tar Heel fans came to expect from big defensive end when he was playing at his best.
The fact that he can play in either a 3-4 as an athletic interior tackle or in a 4-3 as a pass rushing defensive end is just one of many reasons why Coples is likely to hear his name called quickly in the first round.
"I'm a versatile player, you know. I just go after the ball, and that's what I'm passionate about doing. I take pride in being versatile, playing any position, and getting to the quarterback," Coples said.
Coples added 25 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press and a 31.5 inch vertical jump, as well as a standing broad jump of eight, feet, 11 inches, and 9.08 inches.
Powell heads into Draft season projected as a likely late-round pick, and he showed solid strength at the Combine, cranking out 29 repetitions of 225 pounds, but his 40-yard dash time of 5.36 seconds didn't exactly turn heads. He added a 28.5 inch vertical jump and a standing broad jump of eight feet, three inches.
Paige-Moss is unable to participate in any of the running events in Indianapolis this week as he looks to overcome an ACL injury suffered in the Independence Bowl in late December, but he completed 26 repetitions on the bench press.
Brown wasted no time making his presence felt among the linebackers, running his first 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds.
The 4.45 time was the best among all participants through everyone's first run, and it's even more impressive considering Brown stumbled and likely lost a fraction of a second.
Brown's second time was even better, as he posted a 4.44 second time.
Charles Brown will work out with the secondary prospects on Tuesday.
Stay tuned to Tar Heel Illustrated over the next few days for coverage and updates of the NFL Draft Combine.