Sunday, August 15, 2010

UNC player who had scrap at N.C. State finds new maturity

CHAPEL HILL - Donte Paige-Moss has added nearly 40 pounds of muscle from a year ago. But his new strength is only one change for the Northside product as he enters his second football season at the University of North Carolina.

Paige-Moss said some setbacks last season led to a more mature attitude as he expands his role with the Carolina defense.

Paige-Moss, a sophomore, started his UNC career poorly by getting into a dorm-room fight last July. His true freshman season ended when he battled an N.C State player Nov. 28 and was suspended for the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

It was then, Paige-Moss said, that coach Butch Davis called him into his office to review what happened in Raleigh. “Coach Davis told me straight up that if I kept doing those things I wouldn’t be here in any more,” Paige-Moss said Thursday.

From then on, he said, “I changed my attitude on the field and off the field.”
Paige-Moss, sitting Thursday in the swank UNC football offices that overlook Kenan Stadium, knew what was at stake. He would have to harness the fighting instincts he had honed growing up in the Jones County town of Maysville, where he lived before transferring to Jacksonville as a high school junior.

“In that area, it was a lot of negative things,” he said. “Everybody didn’t make it out like I did.”

Many people he knew as a youth, he said, “are either locked up or dead.”

He found an outlet in football, and had a dominant career at Northside High. Scout.com ranked him the No. 1 defensive end prospect in the country, and SuperPrep and Parade picked him to their All-America teams.

“He’s a classic example of a guy who had phenomenal credentials.” Davis said recently. “Guys like him could literally dominate a high school game. He probably never played against somebody on the offensive line who was good enough to block him. But at this level, it’s not enough to rely on God-given ability.”

“That’s kind of the way it was,” Paige-Moss said. “In high school, you find your ‘fanatical freaks.’ But at this level, everybody was on top in high school.”

Paige-Moss started his UNC career as a talented pass-rusher, but he barely understood the subtle skills required of a top defensive end. Since last season, he has added weight and focused on learning how to play the run.

“Last year, what I had was raw talent that could be used for pass rushing,” said Paige-Moss, who is now 6 feet 4 and 269 pounds.

Paige-Moss had only five tackles in 2009. But he will be in UNC’s rotation this season as the backup at left defensive end.

Depth along the defensive line is important for UNC, since the NCAA is investigating the school for actions involving defensive tackle Marvin Austin. Quinton Coples is listed as the preseason starter at defensive left end, but Carolina is also playing Coples at defensive tackle. If Coples starts at tackle for Austin, junior Michael McAdoo will switch from the backup at right defensive end to the starter at left defensive end.

Either way, Paige-Moss will be the No. 2 at left defensive end. Paige-Moss isn’t complaining that McAdoo might move ahead of him and is confident he’ll get plenty of time on the field this fall.

“Maybe last year, I’d be like ‘That’s my spot and I have to have it,’” he said. “But this year, with me more mature, I’m able to accept my role.”

That role could be a significant one as Carolina looks to build depth along the defensive line – and Paige-Moss looks to take advantage of his new muscle and maturity.

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