CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina’s Pro Day on Tuesday, complete with all 32 NFL teams represented and a live NFL Network broadcast, was an event some five years in the making.
This is the vision Fedora had when he arrived at UNC in December 2011. It’s the culmination of the early years of his program building, and it serves as a benchmark standard for what he wants it to be moving forward.
“I think it gives credibility to our program,” Fedora said on Tuesday. “If you come to the University of North Carolina, you’re going to get developed and have a realistic look at the NFL. To have all of these teams here… and we’ve got a lot of former players that are in the NFL. I think guys know that they can come to the University of North Carolina, they’re going to get developed, and they’re going to have an opportunity to achieve their dreams.”
One of the players participating in pro timing day – offensive guard Caleb Peterson - committed to Fedora while he was still the head coach at Southern Miss. The recruiting pitches to this current crop of Tar Heel draft prospects included getting the chance to make it to the next level.
“It’s one of the things we talked about when we recruited these kids,” Fedora said. “I want to have a hand in helping them reach their dreams and goals.”
After several down years in terms of NFL draft exposure, wide receiver Bug Howard is viewing this draft as the program’s turnaround.
“Going from last year with nobody going to the combine, we made a big improvement of sending seven,” Howard said. “Not only that, but we all stood out. You heard somebody say something about a Carolina player every day of the combine. We went out there and showed them what we had.”
** Fourteen Tar Heels participated in some form or fashion: Howard, defensive end Mikey Bart, center Lucas Crowley, running back Khris Francis, safety Dominquie Green, wide receiver Mack Hollins, running back Elijah Hood, defensive tackle Nazair Jones, cornerback Des Lawrence, running back T.J. Logan, offensive guard Caleb Peterson, wide receiver Ryan Switzer, quarterback Mitch Trubisky, and kicker Nick Weiler. Former Tar Heels Jack Tabb, Kam Jackson, Sam Smiley and Damien Washington also participated.
Hollins, who injured his quad while running the 40 at the NFL combine three weeks ago, did not participate in the 40-yard dash or drills.
** There were 75 NFL scouts representing all 32 NFL teams at Navy Fields, marking the largest personnel attendance since 2011. While there were no NFL head coaches on hand, 49ers general manager John Lynch was present. Detroit Lions wide receiver coach Robert Prince spent most of his time watching Ryan Switzer and Howard.
** Trubisky told reporters after his drills that he had individual workouts scheduled with the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers, among others.
** With Switzer back in Chapel Hill for a short period, it may be time for him to pay up on a bet with his former coach.
Leading up to the NFL combine last month, Switzer was adamant he would measure 5-foot-9. Fedora disagreed, and so they wagered a steak dinner. Switzer lost, measuring in at 5-foot-8.
“I’ve been telling him that since he’s been here that that’s what it’ll be,” Fedora said. “He still doesn’t believe that. That’s the thing about Ryan. All you’ve got to do is tell him he can’t, and he’s that kid that says, ‘sit back and I’ll show you.’ That’s his attitude about everything in life. People can say he’s 5-foot-8, but in his mind he’s 6-foot.”
** Hood announced before Christmas that he would be returning for his senior season at UNC. Less than three weeks later, the Charlotte, N.C. product reversed course, declaring for the NFL Draft.
“I prayed about it, and just thought about the opportunity I had, which was to go play football at a professional level,” Hood said when asked about his decision. “I just thought about all the people who really just wanted to say they had the chance to have a chance to go do such a thing. I play running back. It’s a position that doesn’t last very long. Just thinking about my options and what would be the best choice for Elijah Hood, I decided it would be in my best interest to go ahead and change my course and go out there and see what I can do at the next level.”
Hood likely helped his draft status on Tuesday, posting a 4.58 40 at 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds.
** Logan turned heads at the combine with his 4.37 40, which was tops amongst running backs.
“I’ve always been just a backyard runner,” Logan said, “so I knew I was going to get out there and run fast. But I tweaked my start a little bit and it really helped, because I was able to get out there and run really fast.”
That blistering time has helped his draft projections, as he’s currently being told he’s a third or fourth round option.
** Here are the leaders for the prospects that participated in pro day testing:
Bench Press: Lucas Crowley (30 reps at 225); Caleb Peterson (29)
40-Yard Dash: Des Lawrence (4.53); Dominiquie Green (4.53)
Broad Jump: Green (10-11); Khris Francis (9-10)
Vertical Jump: Green (35.5); Bug Howard (34)
Greg Barnes contributed to this story