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May 3, 2011

Carolina pipeline forming

As positive and bright as the weekend proved to be for North Carolina football, with nine players getting selected in the National Football League draft, the immediate future holds even more promise.

First of all, the nine will not be the only players in training camp, that is if there is a training camp with the labor dispute between the union and the club owners.

Deunta Williams, if he heals and become his old self, will not only get a shot, I'm betting the ranch he'll eventually make a team and become an excellent professional player.

Nonetheless, what could happen next April could cast a shadow on this season's selections with the spotlight generated by the 2012 draft.

It is not unrealistic whatsoever to think that some combination of defensive end Quinton Coples, receiver Dwight Jones and defensive tackle Tydreke Powell could go in the first round next April, assuming they can remain healthy and continue to improve at the rate each did in 2010.

Zach Brown, as a the fastest player on the team at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds (at least) is the kind of player the pros love. The kid runs 4.4 or better in the 40-yard dash. He will have the stopwatch guys drooling at the combine and in the workouts next spring.

Now that Coples has returned to defensive end, he could become one of the top five picks in the draft. He's 6-6, 280 pounds and can flat-out run. And he is strong as well. He will not be manhandled by those hulking offensive tackles at the next level.

As for Jones, if he can come close to improving as equally as much next season as he did last year, there is no reason to believe a 6-4 receiver with his speed and strength cannot have a shot at being top-10 to top-15 pick.

These are the kids who are guaranteed to go. Rising junior defensive end Donte Paige-Moss is an ultra-quick defensive end who is going to be a nightmare to block with his first step. He will be eligible to leave early if he wishes.

He needs to improve his strength and his repertoire of moves for getting free from the clutches of those offensive tackles, but he is so fast that he could leave early and go in the first round as well.

Powell, at 6-3, 305 pounds, is a disruptive force on the interior of the defensive line. He can stop the run and unlike some tackles, he is quick enough to break free for quarterback sacks as well.

He may be a second-rounder, but a monster year could propel him into the first round. Just remember that Carolina had three players picked in the first round in April 1998. This is far from impossible.

That draft followed Mack Brown's final year at Carolina, when the Tar Heels entered the season third in the country with the most alumni in the NFL already.

Davis is stocking the roster with same kinds of players.

And these are the most prominent names. Where do you think James Hurst, an offensive lineman so talented that he started at left tackle as a freshman, will go when his time arrives?

The offensive line is the one area in which UNC has not placed a lot of players in the pros since the Bill Dooley and Dick Crum years, but that is changing and in a hurry.

There is a whole new model for the offensive line at UNC now. These new kids are bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic than their predecessors. That is not a knock on any former Tar Heels, but it is just a fact of life. This outcome is the result of a calculated plan by the coaching staff to change the makeup of the offensive linemen recruited here.

Then there is quarterback Bryn Renner. This kid has an NFL arm. There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever about that. He throws the out pattern as well as a pro now.

He is athletic. He is daring. Now he has to take his physical skills and add the mental part of what makes a successful professional quarterback.

He could develop into easily the most sought-after Carolina quarterback in history when his time comes.

Of course, the more immediate benefit to all this talent is the Tar Heels could shock the ACC and the opposition's fans by having a far greater season this fall than most expect after losing nine players to the draft.

In the end, that is what counts the most. The draft is just a nice reward for the players and bait to help recruit future all-stars.


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