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April 26, 2012Thursday night was a night of dreams for former North Carolina defensive lineman Quinton Coples, as he was taken with the No. 16 overall selection of the 2012 NFL Draft by the New York Jets.
"They (the Jets) were definitely serious about taking me if (I was) available at that time. It was good stuff. They educated me on the things they do in their program," Coples said shortly after being drafted to Brian Costello of the New York Post.
"I'm ready. There's no doubt about it. I'm just ready to play football."
Coples also gave a post-selection interview to ESPN Radio, which was passed along Thursday evening by a UNC official.
"They (Jets' coaches) knew I could get to the quarterback and help this team get to the Super Bowl. It's good to be a Jet.? I'm just going to go out there and be the best pass rusher I can be."
New York's Rex Ryan was the only NFL head coach who made his way to UNC's Pro Day back in late March in Chapel Hill, where he got a chance to get an up-close and personal look at Coples.
"He (Coples) reminds me, he's a similar type of player as a Shaun Ellis, Trevor Price. "He's that kind of mold---very athletic for a inside pass rusher, and a 3-4 guy. I think it's a fair comparison between those two," Ryan said in the Jets post-Draft press conference. "I was going to work awful hard to get him if he was there at 16. That's for sure."
While Ryan worked out Coples both as a pass rushing defensive end and an outside linebacker during his time at UNC, Ryan suggested that Coples will be playing up front for the Jets in its 3-4 scheme.
"I think first off, Quinton is a guy, he's probably athletic enough to stand up and play linebacker, but that's not what we've brought him here to do. He's going to have his hand in the dirt," Ryan said.
Coples impressed Ryan not only with his athleticism, but also with his physical conditioning.
"He wasn't winded. Going through all the defensive line drills, he wasn't winded. So I wanted to push him. I wanted to see how this guy would compete through the drills, and put him through drills he wasn't familiar with, which was linebacker," Ryan said.
"I forget who was there with me, but I'm like, 'I think I just made this young man a lot of money,' because when we were going through drills, he could catch the football. He could run. There's no saying he couldn't play outside linebacker, because he looked that athletic. He was really impressive in those drills. I couldn't get him tired. It was impressive."
The Jets are aware of some of the concerns some analysts and experts have about Coples' motor, and if he can be counted on to go 100 percent every play.
"The bottom line is with Quinton Coples, the talent is there. The passion for football---is it there? Rex Ryan, as passionate a coach as you you'll ever see. Can he get it out of this kid and push the right buttons?" asked ESPN Draft expert Mel Kiper moments after Coples was taken.
Both Kiper and fellow analyst Jon Gruden agreed in their praise of Coples' natural physical attributes, which have a chance to aid greatly to New York's defense in the coming years.
But they also cautioned about a lack of consistency and effort that could hamper him in the pros.
"Quinton Coples really looks the part. Excellent size. He's very athletic and flexible. He can really bend and twist and turn his body. Very good first step and quickness, and he can really close," said Gruden. "But the effort is way too inconsistent for me. He disappeared this year for long stretches. He gets blocked and stays blocked."
"He's going to play for one of the premier defensive coaches in football. If anybody can press the buttons to get it out of him, Rex Ryan and his staff can do it," Gruden added.
"This kid has rare athletic ability, but I think effort is contagious. So is lack of effort, and I did not like the way Coples played his final year in Chapel Hill. I liked him better two years ago, particularly when he played inside."
"When you look at a kid 6-6, 283 pounds, with his type of athletic ability, why isn't he a top ten pick?" added Kiper. "Well, the bottom line is early in the year, there were a lot of games where you're watching Quinton Coples and he's not doing it. He's quiet. Catching and not tackling. I saw that in too many games this year. He didn't close and didn't finish the way he was capable of."
"There were games where he did not play to the level of that talent. I think about 10 of his 13 tackles for loss and five of his 7 1/2 sacks came between mid-October and early November, so he got it together midseason, carried that through the year and Senior Bowl and all that," Kiper continued.
Ryan said that he felt Coples was negatively affected his senior year by switching back from defensive tackle to defensive end, and also by playing on a different side of the line, putting a different hand on the ground, and handling different assignments.
"The guy did have seven sacks (as a senior) inside, which is pretty good numbers-wise. I think expectations, he maybe never quite met those as a player, but 10 sacks (as a junior playing defensive tackle) you don't see that from an interior lineman that's 6-6, 285 pounds," Ryan said.
"But the thing that I know being a defensive line coach for a number of years, he switched from the left side to the right side. He actually moved, a lot of his time was an inside guy at (defensive) tackle in a 4-3 (in 2010). And then they move him to right, 'outside' defensive end in 4-3. Now, that takes some time and adjustments to get used to."
"You're used to working off a right-handed stance, and now you're down to a left-handed stance. Some guys, they can make that transition easy. Sometimes you can't. This guy is a natural right-handed guy. So that's where we're going to leave him," Ryan added.
The Jets weren't fazed at all by potential character issues with Coples, one of the players who managed to stay eligible in 2010 when most of his fellow UNC defensive starters were shelved for some or all of the season.
"This kid stayed clean through all the transition with the (UNC) coaches. He stayed above the fray," said Jets Vice President of College Scouting Joey Clinkscales.
While Kiper was blunt in his assessment as to why Coples slipped in the first round this year, he added that if he works out in New York, he has a chance to be a big-time player at a place where big-time players can sit on top of the world.
"He's a tough kid and hard to move against the run. He's really strong in that area, and that's why he's a 3-4 defensive end. He can get the job done," said Kiper of Coples. "If Coples plays like he did in mid to late-season, then they have something. If he doesn't, then he becomes a bust and a disappointing first round pick, but it's really up to Coples."
"He can be as good as he wants to be."