2017 Season Countdown: #3B Mason Cole

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29Aug 2017
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2017 Season Countdown: #3B Mason Cole

Mason Cole (#52, image via MGoBlue)

Name: Mason Cole
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 305 lbs.
High school: Tarpon Springs (FL) East Lake
Position: Offensive tackle
Class: Senior
Jersey number: #52
Last year: I ranked Cole #3 and said he would be the starting center and Second Team All-Big Ten. He started all thirteen games and was indeed Second Team All-Big Ten.
TTB Rating: 87

Cole has been busy making history since he entered college. He was the first true freshman to start at left tackle for Michigan, and after starting the first 25 games of his career there, the coaching staff moved him to center for 2016. Coming out of high school, he was thought to be more of an offensive guard, so center made some sense. With an eye toward his potential NFL career, it was a good idea for him to show off some positional versatility and reveal to the NFL that he could play that spot. He performed adequately enough at center to be named second team all-conference by both the coaches and the media. Even though he was not a mauler, he consistently did his job without getting beaten, which has been the story of his career at both positions.

Now Cole is back at left tackle. Last year’s starting tackle, Grant Newsome, is still out with a devastating knee injury, and his replacement, Ben Braden, graduated. The most logical option was to bump Cole back out, especially because Michigan has a fifth year senior (Patrick Kugler) and an elite recruit (Cesar Ruiz) at center. There’s not much reason to believe that he will become a superstar left tackle, but he should shore up a position that looked like it would otherwise be a glaring weakness; the other options were to play an overmatched Juwann Bushell-Beatty or a true freshman. Not only will he protect quarterback Wilton Speight’s blind side, but he could move back to center if something drastic were to happen, and he will provide leadership for an inexperienced offensive line. Earlier this week, he was named one of Michigan’s captains, along with linebacker Mike McCray II. This should be another good season for Cole, and he’ll probably be all-conference once again.

Prediction: Starting left tackle; Second Team All-Big Ten

29Aug 2017
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2017 Season Countdown: #4 Tyree Kinnel

Name: Tyree Kinnel
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 206 lbs.
High school: Huber Heights (OH) Wayne
Position: Safety
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #23
Last year: I ranked Kinnel #35 and said he would be a backup safety. He made 17 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and and 1 forced fumble.
TTB Rating: 74

Kinnel was a solid player in 2016, but he was behind seniors Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill. He was valued as a key backup and special teamer, but unless an injury or two took place, he was not expected to be a huge contributor. He fared well throughout the season whenever called upon, and he made a very impressive tackle for loss against Maryland where it looked like he knew the play before the snap. In many years, Michigan’s starting safeties have looked comparable to or worse than Kinnel; yet he was #3 or #4 in 2016, depending on how you view Jabrill Peppers.

This year he’s the grizzled veteran in the safety group, and he has to start. In fact, he could have spent all off-season eating buffet dinners and lying on his couch, and he would still be the starter at free safety. Michigan lacks skill and depth at the safety positions. Sophomore Joshua Metellus, redshirt sophomore walk-on Jordan Glasgow (who just earned a scholarship, actually), and freshman J’Marick Woods are all on the two-deep at safety, and they’re all extremely inexperienced. It’s key for Kinnel to stay healthy and direct the back end of the defense, because things might get rather tense if he’s not out there in crunch time. He’s a smart, solid tackler with decent speed, and I’m not sure we can say that about those other guys yet.

Prediction: Starting free safety; 70 tackles, 1 interception

28Aug 2017
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2017 Season Countdown: #5A Bryan Mone

Bryan Mone (#90, image via MLive)

Name: Bryan Mone
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 330 lbs.
High school: Salt Lake City (UT) Highland
Position: Defensive tackle
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #90
Last year: I ranked Mone #15 and said he would be a backup nose tackle with 25 tackles and 3 sacks. He made 11 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 pass breakup.
TTB Rating: 88

Just prior to the 2015 season, Michigan’s coaching staff did a ranking of their own players, and Mone was considered to be the #3 guy on the whole team. That was a team that included two All-Americans in Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis, not to mention a whole host of other NFL talent. Then Mone broke his leg, and Michigan took a big hit to its defensive line depth.

In the summer of 2016, word came that Mone was in the best physical condition of his life, and there were videos posted of him on social media running around like a 330 lb. guy shouldn’t be able to do. He responded with a ho-hum football season. Maybe the injury was still bothering him during the year.

Now it’s the summer of 2017, and the past two seasons of hype have dimmed my hopes for him. I would love to be wrong, but I no longer have hopes or expectations that Mone can be a Dude for Don Brown. I’m simply hoping for a year of health and competence. Much of the nose tackle depth has dissipated from the past two years, and now Mone is expected to start. If injuries or fatigue get to him, the Wolverines will have to play unproven freshman Aubrey Solomon or unproven sophomore Michael Dwumfour; or they will have to move Maurice Hurst, Jr. back over from the 3-tech position, hurting depth there. It is imperative that Mone stays healthy this season, because while there is a lot of talent on the defensive line, there aren’t many guys who can replicate the stellar play of Ryan Glasgow. Hopefully Mone can at least command some double-teams while incrementally increasing his playmaking production.

Prediction: Starting nose tackle; 20 tackles, 1 sack

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