Two barred from workout, but UNC Pro Day still packs plenty of star power
The University of North Carolina Pro Day was missing two former Tar Heels as wide receiver Dwight Jones and linebacker Ebele Okakpu were barred from working out on campus due to previous suspensions. While their absence may have been felt, by running even faster than he did at the Scouting Combine, outside linebacker Zach Brown stole the spotlight in just 4.47 seconds.
An estimated 50 NFL scouts and coaches converged on the North Carolina campus Tuesday to watch the Tar Heels' top draft-eligible prospects compete in their Pro Day. Even before the workout began, however, news began to filter out of Chapel Hill that there would be some surprises.
It had been known that the university was going to bar former Tar Heel linebacker Ebele Okakpo from working out Tuesday. Okakpo had been suspended for the entire season and though UNC took some heat for the controversial decision, many supported new head coach Larry Fedora's focus on discipline after the school's reputation was tarnished by numerous suspensions during Butch Davis' watch.
Only a few hours before the workout began today, however, word came down that senior wide receiver Dwight Jones would also not be allowed to work out. Unlike Okakpo, Jones had not been suspended in 2011. His eligibility for the 2011 AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl was put in question after a flyer circulated online advertising a party had his name and picture on it (a big no-no with the NCAA) but he was allowed to participate in the game and played at the Senior Bowl with the familiar blue and white Tar Heel helmet atop his head. Jones participated in the Combine and posted a faster time in the 40-yard dash than many expected (4.55 seconds) but did not participate in the shuttle drills in Indianapolis. To do these drills in front of scouts, his agent will have to coordinate a new Pro Day for him.
Of course, UNC boasts plenty of talent, which is why several headliners, including New York Jets' head coach Rex Ryan, attended the Pro Day.
Outside linebacker Zach Brown stole the show by proving even faster in Chapel Hill than he was at the Combine. Despite leading all linebackers tested at the Combine with a 4.50 second time in the 40-yard dash, Brown elected to do the drill again Tuesday, clocking in at 4.47 seconds. The 6-1 (1/4), 242 pound Brown also improved in the vertical jump (35") after registering a 33.5" jump at the Combine and posted 22 repetitions of 225 pounds Tuesday in the bench press drill.
North Carolina's highest regarded prospect, Quinton Coples, elected to stand on his results from the Combine, though it is interesting to note that Coples weighed in at 278 pounds Tuesday, six pounds less than he weighed at the Combine. Coples did participate in defensive line drills, as well as linebacker drills at the request of Ryan.
As he told the media staff at North Carolina following the workout, "So many teams are going to a 3-4 and I just wanted to show that I was versatile and can play a lot of positions. I couldn't turn down Coach [Ryan], but I was planning to workout at linebacker all along."
For the complete results of the North Carolina Pro Day, check out their coverage of the workout at TarHeelBlue.com.
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