Check out our photo gallery from Michigan’s media day here.
By RICKY LINDSAY, Sports Editor
When Mason Cole committed to Michigan in December, many expected he would eventually squeeze his way into the team’s offensive line rotation. After all, the Tarpon Springs, Fla. product was the sixth-ranked offensive lineman in the class of 2013 by Rivals.
Although men at his position — especially those in the Big Ten — typically require time to develop into their desired hulking frames, eventually is quickly fading as a fitting adverb when describing Cole’s early pursuit.
Cole turned heads in Michigan’s spring practice as an early enrollee. He’s doing the same thing in fall practice as a true freshman.
Michigan head coach Brady Hoke believes Cole could be one of several true freshmen to see playing time come fall.
“I think he has a very legitimate chance (of seeing snaps). If you ask our coaches, I think we all felt that way,” Hoke said during the team’s media day. “He’s a little different as a freshman, and I attribute that to his high school coach and the program he was in at East Lake. He really has done a nice job. He comes every day, works hard, he’s physically better now than he was in the spring.
“Is he still 18 years old? I think so. But he’s done a nice job.”
During the Big Ten Network’s annual preseason stop in Ann Arbor Monday, BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart reported Cole was taking snaps at left tackle as a starter on the day.
The o-line has moving parts. Top line today. LT Cole (52); LG Magnuson; C Miller; RG Bosch; RT Dawson. pic.twitter.com/XBOHQfUPlz
— Tom Dienhart (@BTNTomDienhart) August 11, 2014
Dienhart dubbed the offensive lineman as his “impressive newcomer” when breaking down Michigan’s practice that afternoon.
“True freshman OT Mason Cole stands out,” he wrote. “He arrived early and went through spring drills. He is 6-5, 292 and will be heavier and stronger. He could be a very good one.”
Michigan enters the 2014 season with a void at left tackle for the first time in four years. All-pro Taylor Lewan manned the position from 2010-2013 before heading to the NFL in April.
If Cole can crack the offensive line’s starting five this fall, he’ll join some rare company in Michigan football history, according to Maize & Go Blue’s Drew Hallett.
“If he gets the nod, Mason Cole would be just the sixth true freshman to start on the OL at Michigan and possibly the first in the opener,” Hallett tweeted on Aug. 11.
Cole didn’t fly under the radar entering fall camp. His rise is nothing new. He took advantage of enrolling early and impressed teammates and coaches in the spring.
“He has a confidence about him,” Hoke said following Michigan’s spring game on April 5. “He’s athletic. Nothing seems really to phase him. And that’s kind of unique.”
Senior defensive end Frank Clark lined up against Cole and other offensive linemen in spring practice. Like Hoke, Clark spoke volumes on the line and of Cole’s emergence at the conclusion of spring practice.
“I think they’re much better,” Clark said after Michigan’s spring game. “I believe they only lost two starters, so when you have three guys and other guys in the program returning. Mason Cole, who’s developed faster than I’ve ever seen a kid develop at the age of 18. It’s a lot to look forward to out of that group.”