As a general rule, offensive linemen generally don't receive much fanfare - at least not until they miss a key block. Cole, however, is a notable exception.
The Florida native signed with Michigan as one of the more highly sought after preps in the country, turning down offers by virtually every other program. He then immediately lived up to his billing, becoming the first offensive lineman in Michigan's storied history to start the season opener of his true freshman campaign. It was a role he would never relinquish, ultimately starting all 51 games of his collegiate career, tying for the most ever by a Wolverine, regardless of position.
Perhaps wanting to break the tie (with former defensive lineman Craig Roh), Cole opted to accept an invitation to the Senior Bowl, giving him a 52nd opportunity to don the maize and blue.
Cole began and ended his illustrious career at left tackle, starting all 12 games as a freshman and the next 13 games as a sophomore on the blindside before switching inside to center - where he projects best in the NFL - as a junior. He earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors from the league coaches and media in 2016 but was asked to move back outside to left tackle as a senior, where he again earned Second Team all-conference recognition.
Though he proved quite effective there at Michigan, Cole lacks ideal arm length and foot speed to remain outside in the NFL. His blocky frame and physical nature project better inside, with his positional versatility and reliability likely to make him one of the first senior linemen selected in April.
Cole signed with Michigan as a consensus four star recruit, turning down the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Southern Cal, among many others. He participated in the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, playing on the East Team. Cole was named to the USA TODAY Sports Preseason High School All-America Team prior to senior season as well as being named a first-team all-state and a first-team all-area selection as a junior."
Sports a broad-shouldered, square-ish frame with his weight spread throughout, including over a powerful lower body complete with thick legs, wide hips and a big bubble, all of which helps him generate impressive torque when he keeps his pads low. Very good overall athleticism for a center, showing the initial quickness to quickly climb to the second level, as well as the awareness to anticipate where defenders are headed and beat them to the spot. Looks comfortable in pass protection at tackle and center, alike, showing the lateral agility and balance to shuffle left and right to mirror opponents. Showed good snap to step quickness when asked to play center in 2016 with no errant shotgun snaps viewed. Alert in pass protection, looking for work. Plays with a brawler's mentality which will endear him to offensive line coaches, seeming to revel in the act of providing an initial punch and working hard to knock his opponent off-balance. Is not satisfied with simply blocking his opponent, Cole wants to bury them into the turf, lifting and landing on top of them when he senses his rival off-balance. Remarkably durable, starting all 51 games of his career at Michigan (tying a school record) and showing his competitive spirit by accepting an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, as well. -- Rob Rang 1/11/2018
May ultimately prove to be more of a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type. After three years blocking on the edge, it isn't surprising that Cole looks comfortable there but he lack of ideal foot speed - including the quickness to handle counter moves back inside - does show up on tape, as does his average arm length, which leaves him scrambling to reach and stop edge rushers. Perhaps even more disconcerting is that Cole sometimes struggled with pad level when starting at center in 2016, bending too much at the waist rather than at the knees, failing to consistently generate movement at the point of attack in the running game and getting pushed back in short yardage situations, including at the goal-line (Ohio State-2016). Cole's inexperience in the closer confines at center also shows with his dropping his head too often on contact, leaving himself vulnerable to swim moves. He is an emotional player who battles to the echo of the whistle, risking dumb penalties for extracurricular activity after the play ends. - Rob Rang 1/11/2018
COMPARES TO:Joe Hawley, Buccaneers - The 6-3, 300 pound Hawley didn't come with nearly the fanfare as Cole after playing his collegiate ball at UNLV but he also showed positional versatility there, as well as an occasional struggle with knee bend. Perhaps most importantly - at least for the sake of this comparison - is the style with which each competes. Hawley (pronounced Holly) may sound nice but it should be pronounced "brawley" as this former fourth round pick by Atlanta (2010) plays with the nastiness only teammates and offensive line coaches might appreciate.
IN OUR VIEW: Scouts can check a lot of boxes with Cole, whose square frame, nasty playing temperament, and ability to play multiple positions should land him a Day Two selection. Given his lack of ideal length and at least initial issues with leverage during his one season at center, don't be surprised if he ultimately is asked to move yet again in the NFL - this time to guard. Regardless of his final landing spot, Cole looks like a safe bet to be among his club's five best linemen and continuing his streak of starts well into what should be a long NFL career.