Mason Cole (#52, image via MGoBlue)
Name: Mason Cole
Weight: 305 lbs.
High school: Tarpon Springs (FL) East Lake
Position: Offensive tackle
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