Previously: Last year's profiles, CB Brandon Watson, CB Jabrill Peppers, LB Jared Wangler, LB Chase Winovich, LB Noah Furbush, LB Michael Ferns, DL Brady Pallante, DL Bryan Mone, DL Lawrence Marshall.
|Tarpon Springs, FL – 6'5", 275
||4*, #253 overall
||4*, #92 overall
#6 OT, #12 FL
||4*, #165 overall
#10 OG, #28 FL
||4*, #86 overall
#4 OG, #12 FL
||ND, USC, OSU, Alabama, Stanford, UF, FSU
|Previously On MGoBlog
||Hello post from Ace.
||Army game selection. Twitter.
He also has a hudl page.
It's weird, but Mason Cole was kind of a forgotten recruit despite being a consensus four star with every offer under the sun. As I was collecting this post I ended up thinking "oh, right, this guy is seriously touted." Early commit, OL, Artavis Scott drama: whatever it was, I kind of forgot that Cole was one of those rare offensive linemen who everyone thinks just has it.
And I do mean everyone:
Analysis: Mason Cole is a great win for Michigan on the recruiting trail because the Wolverines beat out several elite teams closer to home and around the country like Ohio State, Florida, Florida State, USC, Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame, and Stanford.
That is more of an offer dump truck than an offer list, and the names don't stop there. They just get gradually less impressive. Everyone offered him, and they did so early.
In Cole's case it's because he's put together and very agile for his improbable size:
"The key word that everyone uses with him is how athletic he is for a big guy," said Hudson. "He has extremely good feet, good bend, and very really do you see him on the ground so the athleticism that he has is real strong for someone his size."
SBNation's Bud Elliott echoes that bend bit:
Cole has an elite offer list for a reason. Many reasons, actually.
He is very athletic and plays with a lot of energy. Cole is able to bend and play low, giving him the leverage advantage over most opponents, though he needs to do so more consistently.
Cole is quick out of his stance and climbs to the second level using good angles. His feet allow him to play with good balance, which helps him not overextend for defenders. … His upside is that of a high-level BCS starter, and I do think he can stay at tackle in the right system.
And Clint Brewster:
Cole is a flexible, athletic guard that can really move well. … Cole moves great laterally, as rush defensive ends struggle to get around him and he has the size/strength to take on a bull rush. The 6-4, 285-pound Cole really fires off the ball and plays with a mean streak when run blocking, allowing him to really move people. He shows outstanding technique and hand placement as well.
Cole impressed at the Army game. Rivals to moved him up about 40 spots afterwards, and 247 was also impressed. Their evaluation touches on the main Cole dilemma:
…it was clear that the Michigan commit was one of the most polished and skilled offensive line prospects on the East squad. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Cole projects as an offensive guard long-term, but we aren’t so sure he could not be an excellent tackle in Ann Arbor during his college career. That’s really the only question (other than the normal fill out your frame type stuff that’s imperative for offensive line prospects) surrounding his game at this time- which position on the line will he play?
Downsides are the usual ones you'd expect from a guy listed at 275*. He is not exactly blowing donkeys off the ball, at least not when they're college-level guys. Elliott says drive blocking and bull rush defense are "obvious area[s] for improvement" due to a lack of bulk; Brewster says he "isn't the biggest/strongest ever"; Jamie Newberg says he's a "solid" run blocker who is "more finesse than sheer power."
ESPN does offer some technique critiques that the other sites don't. Again, this is always tough to judge since these things are all undoubtedly true and all undoubtedly true for all but the super-elite, grown-in-a-tank prospects:
good hip and ankle flexion to work out of stance and play in space. … would like to see more consistent knee bend, but has nimble feet and can stay square and mirror well. Does need to do a better job of consistently setting quicker…
Will show flashes, but needs to show better and more consistent initial quicks. …. Needs to watch his pad level, but he drives his knees and plays with good balance and can stay on his feet, sustain a block and create some push. Does a nice job of climbing to second level and utilizing good angles to get a hat on moving targets.
FWIW. The impression the rest of the evaluations provided was that he is ahead of the game as a high school player. Also some of them say he is blowing donkeys off the ball. Sometimes I wonder if people are just making stuff up when it comes to the arcane wonder that is the OL.
*[Note: I took Cole's weight from spring for this post since that seems more in line with the other recruits. Their weights are approximately what they weighed on signing day, so should Cole's; the evaluations are about the recruit a year ago, not now. FWIW, he is now listed at 292 on the fall roster.]
The main question: guard or tackle? Rivals and Scout rank him as a tackle; 247 and ESPN rank him as a guard. At the Army game he bounced between both spots, effectively. Barton Simmons:
4. Mason Cole, OG, Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake
Cole was just solid and consistent all day long. He had his moments at offensive guard and right tackle but among a beat up offensive line, he is clearly the top athlete of the group. In the run game, Cole was also very good opening up holes, using leverage and power.
He in fact bounced between left guard and right tackle, virtually mandating the Michael Schofield comparison coming later in this piece. In a later article Simmons would claim that Cole is probably a guard in college but has "the athleticism to play in space at tackle in this setting."
Rivals' Josh Helmholdt was in the same boat but it seems like after watching him over the course of the week he came around to his ability outside, and not just "in this setting." At first glance:
He does not look quite his listed 6-foot-5, and does appear to be a future interior offensive lineman. At tackle he showed the ability to kick out and handle the speed rush, and at guard he was one of only a couple that got the best of standout defensive tackle Travonte Valentine each of the first two days. Cole combines excellent technique with above average athleticism.
After the game, though, Helmholdt named him one of the top players on his team and had gotten over the height issue:
…kept defenders in front of him all day and pancaked several to the ground. He has shown all week that he has the foot speed and agility to handle speed rushers off the edge, while being stout enough to battle with interior defensive linemen. It will be interesting to see where Michigan plays him next fall.
One thing that helps him is that his arms are tackle-issue. Rivals FL guy Kynon Codrington:
"One thing we noticed was his long arms. Once he gets his hands on opposing defenders, he makes it hard for them to get around him. He has great initial punch. And excellent footwork for a guy his size."
Everyone wants to push Cole inside because he doesn't look like a tackle, and then they get their hands on him and they eventually shrug and put him at tackle. "Eventually" in this case means "after a few days."
Versatile is the watchword. ESPN concludes their evaluation by asserting that he is a guy who could potentially play anywhere:
…very good natural ability and potentially very good versatility. A high school tackle who could very well transition to the next level at that position, but we wouldn't be surprised to see him slide inside and with some development could offer five-position ability.
Guard or tackle? Yes.
Cole's performance this spring was good for him and worrying for Michigan. Erik Magnuson was sidelined with an injury, leaving the left tackle spot up in the air. It was Cole who fought through the other contenders to be the Please Stay Healthy Erik Magnuson And Nicki J Harris Family Spring Game-Type Substance Left Tackle. (To be fair to Logan Tuley-Tillman, he was also dealing with an injury.)
The prospect of a true freshman left tackle who's short for the position is terrifying, of course, but in a post narrowly focused on how Mason Cole's career is going to go that's a good thing. There were plenty of other options to test drive at that spot; Cole eased past David Dawson, Ben Braden, the suddenly mobile Graham Glasgow, and passed Chris Fox and Logan Tuley-Tillman.
His teammates noticed. Frank Clark:
"Mason Cole, he's developed faster than I've seen a kid develop at 18. He had a great spring. He did what he had to do on and off the field."
"That kid's working hard."
His coaches noticed. Darrell Funk:
"The guy that's come in, and he's a guy who should be getting ready for prom here in a few weeks, is Mason Cole -- who has done a tremendous job at left tackle. We knew he was an excellent player, he's very athletic and he'll get bigger and stronger.
"But he's been as pleasant a surprise as anyone. ... He's come in, and I don't want to say effortlessly, but between academics, the football, the weights, he's done everything we've asked. He's right in the mix."
Cole's crested the first hurdle, one that has hewed down highly-touted prospects before. To be where he is on the depth chart after one spring practice erases many of the doubts that come with all OL, and make Cole a relatively sure thing.
In a perfect world, Cole is a guard. In this one he could fit at any of the five positions reasonably well. Sullivan put it well when Cole committed:
Cole has the long arms and athleticism to play tackle, but a more natural guard build.
The run-out at left tackle is a real thing. If Magnuson locks that position down like everyone hopes, he'll start hunting elsewhere. Here's a metric for the fall: wherever Cole is lining up is the position the coaches are shakiest on. Again, that's great for the future. At the moment you're hoping Cole doesn't quite poke through.
Etc.: Aaand pattern:
"I was talking to other coaches and it was very rare when you get a kid like Mason that I'm having to tell him not to work so much. Between our workouts and the personal trainers, speed trainer, I don't want him to overdo it. He's just that guy that you always want."
Why Mike Schofield? Schofield was a high school hurdler who happened to be enormous. He needed to add weight; he wasn't much of a drive blocker; he was more than capable of mirroring defensive ends any which way. Schofield added the weight and eventually the pile pushing (he really came around as a senior, not that you could tell with the rest of the line doing what it does) en route to becoming a third round pick.
Cole is a couple inches shorter and thus shades more towards guard but is evidently tackle material, whether it's right or left. He has the same agility and need to add weight (though the just-released fall roster has him at 292, which means he doesn't need to add too much more).
Recruiting services ranked both similarly, and Schofield even picked Michigan over ND. This one's tight. I also like Touch The Banner's Steve Schilling comparison.
Guru Reliability: High-minus. Heavily scouted player from a high school that had (and has) a pile of talent. Healthy, not a whole lot of projection except for the fact that he's an OL and therefore there is always projection.
Variance: Low? I almost never issue "low" here for OL. Cole is an exception because of the above reliability and his early, impactful enrollment.
Ceiling: High-minus. Does not have the frame to be a shut down, top-ten-pick left tackle. Has plenty of upside in all other ways and could be a high pick anywhere else on the line.
General Excitement Level: High-minus. If he had those three inches I'd be going full Lewan here; even without 'em he's an exciting prospect.
Projection: Despite Cole's prominence in spring, he should redshirt unless injury hits the OL. He is a true freshman. Yes even if he enrolled early. Michigan's had two offensive lines that had to resort to true freshmen in the past ten years: last year's and Lloyd Carr's final season. Yeah. So let's not do that.
Playing time as a redshirt freshman is complicated by the thing about the OL that's real bad for this year but quite good for the next couple: there are no seniors. While you can't rule Cole pushing an existing player out of the starting lineup, the guys in question are a year and a half ahead of him. If he does knock someone out of the lineup it'll probably be Kalis or Braden, FWIW.
As a sophomore he'll be fighting over whichever spot Glasgow vacates. His flexibility will aid him there, and given his prominence this spring he has to be considered the frontrunner. Best bet now is a three year starter, wherever that happens to be, and potential time before that as the OL's sixth or seventh man.