FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Quinton Coples had just finished his first practice with the New York Jets when he walked to the sideline while everyone else headed toward the locker room.
The first-round draft pick strolled over to the man waiting for him, shook his hand and smiled. It was new team president Neil Glat.
Good move, kid. Talk about a great first impression.
And he wasn’t too bad on the field, either.
"Coples was passing guys up on that pursuit drill," Jets coach Rex Ryan said Friday after the team’s first rookie minicamp practice. "I know it’s not an official stat and I don’t know how many sacks he had last year, but he had about six today."
Coples was drafted No. 16 overall last week after an impressive career at North Carolina. Ryan has already deemed him a possible starter on the defensive line, and Coples did little to change that thought as the coach praised the young player several times.
"I didn’t really notice, but it’s always good to get compliments from the head coach," Coples said with a smile. "I’m pretty happy about that."
Coples wasn’t the only one singled out by Ryan. Second-round pick Stephen Hill, a wide receiver from Georgia Tech, and third-rounder Demario Davis, a hard-hitting linebacker from Arkansas State, also impressed their new coach during the 2 1/2-hour practice.
"Some of the guys just jumped out at you," Ryan said, "when you look at Coples and you look at Hill, the way they can run, and Davis. It’s kind of fun to watch."
The 6-foot-6, 290-pound Coples has the size, speed and athleticism to play all along the defensive line and he’s ready to make an impact for a Jets defence that welcomes his ability to rush the passer on a regular basis.
While New York ranked fifth in overall defence, its 35 sacks put the Jets in the middle of the pack. Coples, who opened eyes as a junior in 2010 with 10 sacks, could be an impact player for Ryan immediately.
"I’m excited about being a part of his defence," Coples said. "And I’m excited about him coaching me and helping me to become great."
Added Ryan: "We want him, and we want anybody, to have the desire to be great. He’s got the God-given ability to be great."
Coples is coming from a defensive system at North Carolina that predominantly used a 4-3 scheme, while the Jets run a 3-4 base defence. That won’t be a problem, he insisted. After all, he got the playbook last Friday and was given a 10-DVD set of films showing the Jets’ defensive fronts against their opponents last season. He watched them all and was feeling pretty good about himself.
"The defensive scheme, the majority of it is based off of what we got today," Coples said, "so I grasped the majority of the defensive playbook today."
Ryan smiled when told of Coples’ confidence.
"We love the fact that he thinks he has it down," Ryan said. "This is one practice. He’s got like four defences in and our library’s a little more extensive than that. … I like his confidence. The great thing is we will hold him to it now."
Hill had some nice catches, flashing the speed that had the Jets so excited they traded up four spots in the draft to make sure they got him. The most impressive came when he made a circus grab of a twice-deflected pass during 7-on-7 drills.
He had one long pass from G.J. Kinne bounce off his fingertips, but he was otherwise sure-handed all practice. Hill was on the field a day after agreeing to terms on a four-year deal worth just under $5 million dollars, becoming one of the first NFL draft picks to sign.
"It was about just getting it off your mind and not worrying about how much quote-unquote money you’re going to make because it’s really not about that," Hill said. "It’s about getting out there and playing football. That’s why I wanted to get it over with and get on the football field and get to work."
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Hill had 28 catches for 820 yards — averaging more than 29 yards a catch — and five touchdowns last season for the Yellow Jackets while playing in a triple-option offence. While some wonder what the transition will be like for Hill, he thinks he’s already getting there by spending lots of time one-on-one with new receivers coach Sanjay Lal.
"In a way, it’s really the same pace," Hill said. "You’ve got faster guys, but other than that, we had to go full speed at Georgia Tech also. Running that triple-action, you have to go full speed."
Hill is expected to step in and start opposite Santonio Holmes, giving Mark Sanchez a fast target with size. He had 49 career catches in three seasons at Georgia Tech, but set the NCAA record by averaging 55.2 yards on his nine touchdown grabs.
"Let’s face it, I’m not going to get excited about drafting a wideout. It’s just not my deal," the defensive-minded Ryan said. "I want to see it to believe it and everybody talked about it, and then you watch him on that field and you’re like, ‘Wow! That’s a big, fast guy, no question about it."’
Davis might have made the biggest impression on Ryan, who compared the speedy linebacker to a "young Bart Scott" and was a clear leader on a field that included 56 rookies, most of whom are still trying to find the locker room and the cafeteria.
He went so far as to suggest that Davis has "that natural leadership" — sort of like Ray Lewis has in Baltimore.
"I’m not saying Demario is that guy, but — and there’s only one Ray Lewis — it’s interesting," Ryan said. "His face. His mannerisms, passion. I see some things."