Questions about effort still dog Tar Heels’ Quinton Coples

jperson@charlotteobserver.comMarch 19, 2012 


UNC's Quinton Coples (90) hits Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington (13) just after releasing a pass in the fourth quarter on Saturday September 24, 2011 at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.


Quinton Coples’ visit with the Carolina Panthers last week began with a Cowboy T-bone at Ruth’s Chris, which the restaurant bills as a “huge, bone-in version” of its normal T-bone.

It was a big steak for a big guy. Coples, a 6-6, 284-pound defensive end from Kinston, remains a top-10 draft prospect despite a disappointing senior season at North Carolina.

Coples will participate in position drills in front of NFL scouts today at the Tar Heels’ pro day. After a solid showing at the combine last month in the 40-yard dash (4.78 seconds) and 225-pound bench press (25 reps), Coples does not plan to do any testing today.

But as was the case at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine, Coples likely will be asked to address the perception he gave less than 100 percent at times last fall, when his sack total fell from 10 in 2010 to 7.5.

It has become the dominant storyline surrounding Coples, regarded as the top defensive end in the draft and a potential target for the Panthers when they pick ninth.

“It doesn’t get to me at all,” Coples said of concerns about his effort level. “It’s pretty much the only question they have. Anything outside of that, they really don’t have anything to ask. I don’t have any regrets with what happened. I just take it for what it is and move forward.”

Coples said the shift from the left side of the line to the right affected his productivity, and talked at the combine about how his long strides could make it appear he is not moving fast.

But as he watched video from his senior season with teams at the combine, Coples conceded there were times last fall when the play was away from him he did not go as hard as he could.

“There’s definitely those times that even if I did hustle, it’s hard and I had no chance of making the play,” Coples said. “It’s all about the opportunity. They wanted to see that. And I didn’t do that (last) year. That’s one of the main focuses that I’m going to continue to do going forward.”

Coples will be the main draw today at North Carolina, which had nine players drafted last year. A number of last year’s picks were at the center of the agent controversy that landed the Tar Heels on NCAA probation.

North Carolina had six players at this year’s combine in Indianapolis. None was more highly regarded than Coples, who has been compared in size and ability to former Tar Heels and Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers.

Peppers also had a reputation for taking plays off. But Coples is set on showing scouts he has a passion for football.

Coples said his goal today is “making sure they know that I’m still focused and still working hard to become the best player that I can.”

Coples said he enjoyed his visit to Charlotte. After having dinner with defensive line coach Eric Washington and defensive line assistant Sam Mills III his first night, Coples spent the following day at Bank of America Stadium talking with coach Ron Rivera, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott and other staff members.

“I was meeting people around the building and being introduced to what a typical day would be – where the meetings are held, where the weight room is, basically a tour,” Coples said.

Coples said the Panthers told him they plan to bring him back for a personal workout before the draft.

Though Coples was not a diehard fan of any NFL team growing up, he said he would welcome the chance to play for his home-state team.

“It would be a great opportunity to play in Carolina,” Coples said. “I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to play in the NFL … anywhere.”

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