It didn't take long for last weekend's visit to pay off, as Tarpon Springs (FL) East Lake offensive lineman Mason Cole announced his commitment to Michigan this afternoon:
— Mason Cole (@MasonCole52) February 25, 2013
Cole becomes the first offensive lineman and fourth prospect overall in Michigan's 2014 class; he gave credit to a couple of his now-fellow commits for recruiting him:
— Mason Cole (@MasonCole52) February 25, 2013
His shirt is in the mail, I presume.
4*, #17 OT,
4*, #19 OT,
4*, 96, #4 OG,
While Cole is listed as a tackle by three of the four sites, he'll likely end up playing guard at Michigan. The services are split on whether he's 6'4" or 6'5", with listed weights ranging from 260 to 280 pounds. As you can see, Cole is a fringe top-100 prospect to Scout and Rivals, easily within the top 100 on 247—notably, the only site that has him at guard—and he'll presumably be somewhere in that range when ESPN releases their rankings.
Cole first emerged on the camp circuit way back in the summer of 2011, when he was a rising sophomore; Rivals's Keith Niebuhr tabbed him as a top performer at a National Underclassman camp ($):
This is someone who looks like he has a bright future, almost certainly as a tackle. Cole is lean and has great length. For his size, and the fact he's still young, he has quick feet and excellent lateral movement. His technique was as good as any linemen on hand either day. Cole's punch slowed or stopped numerous defenders. And he was smooth enough on his feet to effectively contain the speed rushers. His comprehension is high.
His success continued last summer, where he was one of the top prospects at a Florida State camp, earning this review from Rivals's Chris Nee ($):
Cole participated despite a cast on his left hand. The 6-foot-5, 267-pound offensive lineman is very athletic with quick feet and hands. He does a good job of establishing a solid base and using his arm length off the snap. He shows the quickness to immediately get out and on a defender. He also gains traction when blocking and sustain those blocks. With regards to his physical build, he may end up at right tackle or even offensive guard depending on how he grows and fills out over the next year.
Cole's athleticism stands out in his evaluations—here's a junior-year scouting report from Scout's Jamie Newburg ($):
Cole has very good feet, moves well for a big man and gets off the ball quickly. He's plenty long and could easily pack on a ton of bulk once he gets to the next level. Cole has a good base and bends well. He does tend to stand out of his stance and will need to work on staying lower.
Cole looks equally adept at run blocking and in pass pro. At times he's nasty and seems to finish off most of his blocks.
247's Josh Newburg (I don't care enough to check if he's related to Jamie) echoed the praise of Cole's feet, saying getting to the second level is his best attribute, and also noticed a mean streak in his game ($):
Mason Cole plays with a chip on his shoulder. On nearly every play Cole plays through the whistle. He didn’t get flagged for any late hits, but his aggressiveness does not go unnoticed. The opposing coaches complained several times to the officials that Cole was roughing up their defenders. His play reminds me of former Armwood star and current UF offensive lineman Matt Patchan.
Michigan is getting a lineman with a good frame, very impressive athleticism, and solid technique. Cole will need to add weight and get stronger before he sees the field in college, but (1) he's got plenty of time to do so given Michigan's depth and (2) you can say that about pretty much every high school offensive lineman.
Cole amassed 20+ offers before his commitment, most notably from Alabama, Arkansas, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee, USC, and Wisconsin. That's about as impressive an offer list as you'll see a prospect have at this stage.
Tarpon Springs (FL) East Lake plays in Florida's largest classification (8A); last year they reached the regional final before bowing out to Orlando Dr. Phillips. East Lake has produced just a couple of lower-ranked BCS commits in the Rivals era, but what they're producing currently should have Michigan fans excited—Cole is teammates with four-star WR Artavis Scott and 2015 potential five-star athlete George Campbell, both of whom have visited Ann Arbor with Cole. Cole and Scott—and potentially Campbell, as well—have mentioned the possibility of being a package deal; if so, Michigan is in a great position to land one of the top playmakers in the 2014 class, and perhaps one of the top players of any kind for 2015.
FAKE 40 TIME
No 40 time listed.
The only film I could find of Cole on YouTube is this short reel from MaxPreps—obnoxiously, they don't highlight Cole before plays, but he's #52 and lines up at left tackle:
A far more extensive reel is up on Cole's Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Cole is an impressive player on film and should be one of the centerpieces of the 2014 class, but he's got a long way to go before he sees the field thanks to Michigan's newfound depth on the offensive line—that's not a knock on Cole, just a very good situation for Michigan.
He'll take a redshirt, not only because he needs to bulk up, but because Kyle Kalis, Blake Bars, Kyle Bosch, David Dawson, and Dan Samuelson all project to guard from the two previous classes—it's unlikely any of those guys will move to other positions, too, since the last two classes were strong at tackle and Patrick Kugler is the center of the future.
/takes a moment to appreciate Brady Hoke's offensive line recruiting
As an upperclassman, Cole should compete for a starting spot. There are few guarantees when it comes to an offensive lineman breaking through that level of depth, and that's the best possible problem to have as a football program.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan now has four commits in a class that should be on the small end—currently projected to around 16, though that number should grow by Signing Day. The biggest need remains wide receiver, and Cole's commitment could help that area in a big way if he brings along Artavis Scott.