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** This year’s event lacked the hubbub of the 2011 Pro Day that welcomed back Marvin Austin, Greg Little and Robert Quinn as participants following their key roles in the NCAA investigation. New athletic director Bubba Cunningham and head coach Larry Fedora decided to handle things differently this year and did not allow former wide receiver Dwight Jones to participate.
Jones committed a secondary NCAA violation in December 2011 by allowing his name and photo to be used to promote his birthday party in his hometown of Burlington, N.C. The NCAA restored Jones’ eligibility based on his agreement to cancel the party, but according to a UNC press release, Jones re-scheduled the event immediately following UNC’s bowl game and had the party.
Former linebacker Ebele Okakpu was also not permitted to participate after his dismissal from the team in October.
** The Tar Heels that participated were defensive end Quinton Coples, defensive tackle Tydreke Powell, linebacker Zach Brown, defensive tackle Jordan Nix,
safety Matt Merletti, safety Brian Gupton, cornerback Charles Brown, safety Jonathan Smith, center Cam Holland, tight end Christian Wilson, defensive end Donte Paige-Moss and deep snapper Mark House. Former UNC players included wide receiver Brooks Foster, fullback Bobby Rome, defensive back Cooter Arnold and punter Grant Schallock.
Byrd, Paige-Moss and Houston did not participate in the 40-yard dash or the agility/position drills and only went through the measurement procedure.
** Nearly all 32 NFL teams were represented, including Dallas, New England, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Miami, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Diego, Houston, Buffalo and both New York teams.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan was front and center for the defensive line drills that included Coples, Powell and Nix. Ryan also spent 15-20 minutes chatting with Fedora while the players worked through shuttle and three-cone drills.
** Coples elected not to run the 40 or participate in a handful of agility drills, telling reporters afterwards that he was happy with his 40 times at the combine and didn’t feel the need to run on Tuesday.
But moments after the defensive line drills were complete, Coples name was called to join Brown for the linebacker drills. Ryan personally requested the Kinston, N.C. product to participate.
Fortunately, Coples wasn’t caught off guard by the request. His draft prep since the end of the season has included learning the elements to playing linebacker.
“A lot of teams have switched to a 3-4 scheme, so I wanted to make sure I was aware of how to play in that scheme, how to drop into coverage and things of that nature,” Coples said.
Coples said he had a feeling the scouts would want him to work out as a linebacker.
“They asked me at the combine and I didn’t do it because my legs were beat and I didn’t feel like I could give my total effort to it,” Coples said. “I figured they would get me out here at Pro Day, so I was prepared for it.”
Coples, considered by most analysts to be a high first-round draft pick, received an invitation to attend the NFL Draft in New York in late April.
“It’s truly a blessing,” Coples said. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. You might not ever see that again, so I’m truly blessed and thanking God every day for it.”
** File this away in your “too much information” folder: Zach Brown’s infamous stumble during his 40 run at the NFL combine wasn’t a stumble at all. It was the result of a stomach bug.
“It hit me while I was running the 40,” Brown said. “When I was running, I almost threw up in my mouth. That’s why I stopped. Everybody was like, ‘He tripped.’ No, I didn’t trip. I threw up. That’s why when you see me in the pictures, my mouth is closed. I said, ‘Man, this is going to be a long day.’”
Brown finished his position drills and then made his way to bathroom.
On Tuesday, Brown turned in the best 40 time of the day with a 4.47 after checking in at 6-1 ¼ and 242 pounds.
“I dropped a couple of balls, but I caught a lot too, so it went very well today,” Brown said.
** The scuttlebutt emerging from Pro Day is that Merletti’s performance impressed numerous scouts on hand. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder benched 225 pounds 31 times and ran a 4.6 40.
Not bad for a player that sprained his ACL and MCL in October.
“I’m not quite 100 percent,” Merletti said. “I’m about 95 percent. Almost there, but definitely well enough to come out here and do everything. I was happy that I was able to participate, because a week ago I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do everything. I came out here and performed beyond my expectations, so I was very happy about that.”
Merletti, a standout specials team player during his UNC career, said that his primary emphasis on Tuesday was to prove that he was healthy.
“I’ve heard from a couple of different teams,” Merletti said. “They’re all just asking about film and things like that, just what film to watch and asking be about what positions I can play with regard to defense and special teams.”
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