Inside Man

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- After thriving at defensive tackle last season, Quinton Coples spent the first 11 games of 2011 at defensive end. Yet he moved back inside for the most part on Saturday against Duke, and it was just like old times for the senior.

"That way they can't really game-plan me, they can't really send that many people at me, that definitely helped me out a lot," Coples said. "I got a lot of one-on-ones that I beat and got to the quarterback."

All season long UNC's opponents have prioritized keeping Coples out of their backfields; using a tight end to help chip him, a fullback, sending double-teams against him -- something that has been difficult for Coples to deal with at times.

"It has definitely been a big adjustment, understanding how I have to defeat the double teams and the things they come at me with, triple teams," Coples said. "That has definitely been an adjustment this year."

Interim head coach Everett Withers helped to explain the move back inside for Coples on Saturday.

"Quinton has been a guy, since he's been here, who has gotten a lot of slide protection to him in the passing game, a lot of doubles," Withers said. "We worked it this week. We felt like moving Quinton inside would give him a chance to make a few more plays. I don't think they knew he was going to -- obviously they didn't know he was going to be inside, so it's hard to slide the protection to a three-technique. So it enabled him to make some more plays and have some more production today."

Mostly from that interior line position, Coples recorded a fumble recovery, a sack, and two tackles for loss in the first half alone, showing the dominance that was expected of him throughout the 2011 season. When the dust settled, he had six tackles, two sacks, three tackles-for-loss, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Coples was moved to the edge occasionally, but did most of his damage on the inside.

Mid-way through the third quarter, Coples stripped Duke quarterback Sean Renfree of the ball, creating the forced fumble that resulted in a Thomas Moore field goal. Coples would have had another tackle-for-loss in the second half, but was flagged for "grabbing the helmet opening."

That was a brand new call for Coples.

"I talked to the ref and he said it was just so close that he couldn't let it get by," Coples said. "At the end of the day I told him that I didn't grab, it was open-handed, the guy ran into my arm and I just took him down."

Coples also brought the pressure on Duke quarterback Anthony Boone that resulted in a Gene Robinson interception at the start of the fourth quarter, after Duke had moved the ball from its own 8-yard line to the UNC 41, thanks in part to a couple of 15-yard penalties on North Carolina.

It was a typical UNC-Duke football game, with players on both sides getting hit with personal foul calls, and injured players seemingly after each play.

"We were expecting it to be a dogfight, it's Duke, they were going to come out physical, and try to beat us physically, but we stepped up to the plate and got the job done," Coples said. "It comes with the rivalry and playing Duke … things are going to happen."

That gave the game a special meaning for him.

"I take every game personal, but I think there was a little bit more behind it, due to it's a rivalry," Coples said. "I took it a little more personal, it's my last game here in Kenan Stadium, I'm a senior, it's a rivalry…I was just more mentally into it."

More focused -- and more productive.

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