2014 Recruiting: Mason Cole

Submitted by Brian on July 25th, 2014 at 2:16 PM

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
       

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Bryan Fuller

Scout 4*, #253 overall
#18 OT
Rivals 4*, #92 overall
#6 OT, #12 FL
ESPN 4*, #165 overall
#10 OG, #28 FL
24/7 4*, #86 overall
#4 OG, #12 FL
Other Suitors ND, USC, OSU, Alabama, Stanford, UF, FSU
YMRMFSPA Mike Schofield
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Army game selection. Twitter.

Film

Senior stuff:

 

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.

Comments

Don

July 25th, 2014 at 2:29 PM ^

Wouldn't it make more sense to just assume every goddamn high school player needs to improve his pad level and just mention those incredibly rare kids who don't?

Avon Barksdale

July 25th, 2014 at 2:49 PM ^

I often forget about Cole as well, but these are the type of kids you have to win if you want to compete for a championship. If you can go into FL, TX, CA every year and get 2-3 kids with big offers, it makes it easier to compete with the big boys around the country.  

Just like Ohio State went into the south and scooped up Raekwon McMillion. If we could scoop up Roseboro and Lucier-South this year, we have accomplished what we needed to in the south and west in the 2015 recruiting class.

teldar

July 25th, 2014 at 3:06 PM ^

Nuss says coaching of the ol is a tire fire and says he wants a new ol coach. I'm not sold on funk being terrible, but it deid get easier to believe each year. Obviously, unfortunately, I'm Sligo not sold on him being awesome.

Sten Carlson

July 26th, 2014 at 11:32 AM ^

After Hoke showed a willingness to fire the OC -- who was ultimately responsible for the lack of offensive cohesion and production -- if he thought Funk's lack a ability was also contributing to the problem, why would he keep him?

schreibee

July 25th, 2014 at 3:19 PM ^

This is possibly the 1st time I've ever downvoted anyone - mainly because I do most of my Mgoblogging on the app. Howeva- negged for:

Making unsubstantiated claims about what a coach says or feels in private.

General legibility/readibilty. As in, HUH?!

"Sligo says what?"

 

 

UMaD

July 25th, 2014 at 3:29 PM ^

The prediction above amounts to: I don't want to think about what it means if OL sucks again, so they won't.  Therefore, he'll red-shirt.

I don't want them to suck either, but I'd rather just be pleasantly surprised if it happens.

My prediction is that Cole starts at RT. Braden's not in the lineup anymore than Dymonte Thomas was last year.  We have no evidence that Braden is actually ready for the job everyone assumes is his, and all indications say Cole has more talent.

The '14/tackle situation seems like the '13/guard situation again. That led to Bosch starting when Miller and others couldn't step up.  Guessing we see the same from Cole in '14.

Bodogblog

July 25th, 2014 at 4:13 PM ^

Why is everyone so down on Braden?  We have very little evidence on either of these guys, but what we have wouldn't support Cole over Braden. 

  • Braden is enormous - he's tall and huge and wide and muscle-y.  He's well beyond Cole in physical development. 
  • The coaches talk more confidently and definitively about Braden - saying he has the starting RT job, they like him, he has potential, run blocking good, pass blocking needs to improve.  They talk about Cole as they should - true freshman that they really like, has an opportunity to be in the mix. 
  • Spring game: Braden played really well on most of the snaps, got beat badly by a Frank Clark pass rush or two.  But he has power and speed and good feet.  I really like him, actually.  Cole played remarkably well for a true freshman, but most of what he did was staying in front of guys.  He doesn't have nearly the power that Braden does in run blocking, and he was also beaten in pass rush. 
  • Third year guy vs. first year guy

What am I missing?  Again, little to go on, but I see nothing that supports Cole over Braden.

reshp1

July 25th, 2014 at 4:27 PM ^

At this point, if he doesn't start, I can only assume it's some off the field issue because everything I've seen from him, going back to last fall camp even, has been pretty decent. Last year it was just barely plausible that he was a tackle and tackle only, considering how bad some of the other options were at guard, but with Lewan and Schofield graduated and another year to learn the system, I just can't see how he doesn't seen the field barring being in the dog house for some undisclosed reason.

Bodogblog

July 25th, 2014 at 4:33 PM ^

I'm puzzled by last year as well.  I don't know how he wasn't a better option at OG, and even if not, why not a RT and move Schofield to LG.  Maybe his pass protection was worse last year.  Didn't have the ability to pull or understand who to pick up as a guard, but not yet good enough to pass pro at RT?  That's my guess. 

I understand that last year poses a question mark, but I don't see anything that says he'll be bumped for Glasgow (and I'm a big fan of Glashow, but at C... though he did play well at RT in the spring game), let alone Cole. 

Bodogblog

July 25th, 2014 at 5:15 PM ^

ugh. Unsubstantiated heresay is unsubstantiated.

It's hard for me to believe that watching the little film that is available. He smacked Ryan in the mouth whenever he got his hands on him in the spring game.

I could believe that maybe it was overwhelming last year, the assignments and the pressure. If he was lost and tentative, he may have gotten knocked down a lot and eventually emotionally beaten. It's a lot to ask of a RS freshman, not everyone is at the same level at each age. If this was the case, another year might do wonders. It would also explain why the coaches thought he was the answer so long before backing out. If they saw the potential and thought he'll be there with time and practice, but one spring and fall wasn't enough, makes more sense.

Totally baseless speculation, that.

Bodogblog

July 25th, 2014 at 9:30 PM ^

Sorry, but you're just some anonymous guy on the Internet saying someone else said something. It has about as much credibility as me saying my balls were on Kate Upton's forehead a moment ago.

Multi year starter for Bo and Mo, shouldn't be hard to figure out. Either say the name and how you know him, or accept that others can't give it much credibility. Insiders on Scout or Rivals said that? Ok, that can be verified or denied by others on the board with subscriptions. But you saying something is meaningless. Don't be offended - the reason it's meaningless is no one knows who you or the guy are.

Michigasling

July 26th, 2014 at 10:30 AM ^

Even if what you say is true, that the unnamed source may have been a starter and very successful player, is he a coach? 

He may have been trained in the "teach by humiliation" school of his playing days, a style we now know may not be successful with all players.  Calling a kid a wuss to give him a chip on his shoulder to make him work harder.  Or maybe he's giving up on a kid because he didn't show up as a freshman knowing everything (Iike he undoubtedly did) and having a grown-up body and all the built-in technique we expect all freshmen to have when suddenly playing against guys bigger and older and more experienced.

Guys can watch from the side and bitch about how current players aren't as perfect as they were from day 1, just as we can bitch on our safe little internet whether or not we've ever played at all.  As one who knows nothing about which player deserves playing time, I like to think that with good coaching guys develop, and the Jane of insecurity and confusion is worked out of their Tarzan bodies as they prove to themselves they're capable. 

BlueCube

July 26th, 2014 at 10:54 AM ^

at MLive the other day.

 

Michigan's done its best to strip away any sense of entitlement the senior class may have, because clearly that got a bit out of control last season. You can be a senior and lay into an underclassmen for a mistake on the practice field. But you've also got to be mature enough to walk back over to that player 10 minutes later, put your arm around him and tell him why you said what you did. This roster is young. A lot of these guys are 18, 19, 20 -- and they're being asked to do very big things for this team. Not everyone walks in the door with the mental makeup of a fifth-year senior. It'll be important for the older players to value the younger guys more. Understand that they can't get to where they want to go without them. So embrace them, come together and really, truly play like a family. Win like a family, lose like a family, cry like a family, cheer like a family. Whatever happens, you do it together. You don't finger point. You don't exclude. You don't single out. It all sounds cliche, but right now, it's what Michigan needs dearly.

It sounds like what you are bringing up was a problem last year. I'm not there to see how he is practicing either so maybe he needs to play tougher. I'm assuming the coaching staff saw something though or he wouldn't have been offered. I don't think you can write off a guy this early based on the train wreck that occurred last year. I'm giving the staff time to develop him and lift his confidence.

Link

Painter Smurf

July 26th, 2014 at 1:03 AM ^

I kept a close eye on Braden in the spring game and came to the complete opposite conclusion.  Thought he looked quite stiff both in run and pass blocking.  Did not fire out of his stance at all on running plays and seemed tentative.  Thought it was a night-and-day improvement when Glasgow subbed in for him - he was noticeably more aggressive and comfortable.

The last two springs have not been a lot to go on, but I'm wondering if Braden has it between the ears.  The coaches are obviously pulling for him because he is not only huge, but also light on his feet for a big guy.  But this was the second spring game in a row where he looked like he did not belong in the starting lineup.  Braden may start out the season at RT, especially if Glasgow is still needed at C.  But I'll be surprised if he is good enough to hold onto it.

Michigania

July 25th, 2014 at 3:35 PM ^

i entered u of m the same year as Everitt...and Cole reminds me alot of him....ALOT..... both were totally tough mofos on the field and good students off.

Wolverine 73

July 25th, 2014 at 3:40 PM ^

Maybe, but I don't think the OL will suck.  After watching the incoherent offense last year, with a different approach almost from week to week, it is easy to imagine why the line was having issues.  Finding 5  or 6 guys from the highly recruuited bunch that we have, giving them a clear philosophy, simplifying the playbook and blocking, and adding a year of conditioning and experience, all should help these guys play better.  I don't think we will be great on the OL, but I think we will be adequate.

aahsrd

July 25th, 2014 at 3:47 PM ^

Yes, it's great that he could play right away, but sooner or later, the coaches need to redshirt talent that will only improve the team marginally in the short term, but could help them much more in the future. In the absence of injuries, I hope Cole redshirts and then gone on to be a red-shirt junior and senior star, after most of the other current OL younguns have graduated.  

Bodogblog

July 25th, 2014 at 4:29 PM ^

I'd like him to RS as well.  But this year is too critical for M.  All hands on deck, at all times, constant alarm, have to play desperate and make desperate decisions.  I'd like Isaac to RS as well, but if he can contribute a TD or two in critical games that lead to wins, he needs to be on the field even though that gives us Green/Smith/Isaac in the same class.

Especially at Tackle, M is in a desperate spot.  LT-T and Fox red-shirted last year, and Juwan Bushell-Beatty will redshirt this year.  If Cole can contribute at all in 2014 in critical games - if he's the second best guy and Magnuson goes down, if he comes in for half of a critical game and keeps Gardner upright and that leads to a win, it's worth a burned RS. 

Painter Smurf

July 26th, 2014 at 1:24 AM ^

I tend to think he'll burn the RS.  Mags is going to be a first year starter, coming back from off-season surgery, moving over from guard.  There are some question marks there.  Maybe he'll become an instant anchor and play injury free all year.  But there's no way the coaches can bank on that from a risk perspective.  They need to get eight or so OL ready to play and one of them needs to be a back-up LT.

Redshirting is great and all, but UM's tackle recruiting has not completely worked out the last couple years.  LTT is looking like a slow-developing project at best and some guys they recruited as swing players like Samuelson and Fox are looking more like pure guards.

If Cole is in fact the #2 guy at LT, I think it is too risky not to develop him as the back-up and plan to get him game snaps this season.

 

Bodogblog

July 25th, 2014 at 4:36 PM ^

BTW, Touchthebanner final TTB rating on Cole is 87.

Final TTB rating on Peppers?  100.  Holy shitballs.  87 is high for Magnus, I've never seen one of his rating approach 100 (though I haven't seen all of these over the last several years).