The Wolverine

September 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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36 THE WOLVERINE SEPTEMBER 2017 BY CHRIS BALAS M ason Cole wasn't neces- sarily looking to make history when he arrived in Ann Arbor four years ago as a green freshman out of Tar- pon Springs, Fla. He was just hoping to play in his first year and — if the chips fell correctly — possibly see some meaningful time by midseason. Rumblings started surfacing in fall camp 2014, though, that Cole was already living up to his lofty reputa- tion as's No. 92 player in his class. Some suggested he might even be one of the Wolverines' top linemen during several practices and that he had a chance to start up front as a true freshman, something only five others had accomplished in their Michigan careers at that time. They were right. Cole has since started every game (38) in his Michigan tenure — 25 at left tackle and 13 last year at center — and is expected to anchor the line at left tackle once again this season after earning second-team All-Big Ten honors at center a year ago. He's ready for his best campaign after a strong offseason and is a po- tential captain on an offense that has undergone an overhaul. He's relishing every moment, knowing that in less than six months, his Michigan career will be over. "It's set in a little bit," Cole said. "I don't really know where the time went. It seems like three months ago I was walking in the door getting ready for my first year. "It's been a long road these three years, and I think along those lines you learn a lot. … You're able to con- nect with those younger guys and teach them, try to show the way and show them the mistakes you've made, things you've done right and try to help them that way. "It's been a good three years. I couldn't ask for much more." A little more, maybe … and a championship, for one. The Wolver- ines haven't captured a Big Ten title since 2004, and haven't even played for one in the six years a league championship game has been held. They came close last year, but losses at Iowa and Ohio State ended the dream. "We tasted it last year. We were six points away from being unde- feated," Cole said. "We got that taste in our mouth of how close we can be, how close we were. The guys here last year know how good we can be. Now we just have to finish." For Cole and the rest of the seniors and fifth-year guys, it's a chance to add to their legacy. Nobody on the current team has beaten Ohio State, and while they probably should have won in Columbus last year, 'almost' isn't enough. Cole knows it. His teammates know it. Going 0-fer against the Buckeyes and leaving without a championship ring would be tough to stomach, he admitted. "It's incredibly important," he said. "Being part of a championship team is something we talk about. We still talk about the 1997 [national champi- onship] team. That's something that would be talked about at Michigan for the rest of our lives, and the life after us. "Being a part of that legacy at Michigan is something that can't re- ally be explained. It can't be put into words." MR. VERSATILITY That's true in part, of course, be- cause Cole has never experienced it. He can only imagine what it would mean to the university and its fans to end the drought, and it was one of the main things on his mind entering fall practice. The Wolverines need to find three new starters on the offensive line, a new starting running back, some pass catchers and more, and Cole is doing his part to groom them on the 'Michigan Way.' Being that leader is another big rea- son he returned. "I don't know if it was really one thing," he said of coming back to Ann Arbor after flirting with the NFL Draft. "I really wanted to come back and get my degree, play as a senior, have a senior day and a chance to be a captain. Those are the kinds of things that brought me back. "Being a captain is very important to me. I hope I can be. Tom Brady talked about how it was the greatest honor he ever had. Being a captain at Michigan is unbelievable for a foot- ball player. "Even to be put as a thought with those guys is very special … it's something voted on by the players. Having the team put their trust in you to represent them before games, after games, outside of school … that's the biggest thing. It's a big honor being voted on by your peers that they trust you." They trust him anywhere on the line, offensive coordinator Tim Drevno said at the start of fall camp. Cole is slated to play left tackle, but Drevno was coy in saying he wasn't completely certain where the senior would work in 2017 — left tackle, center, maybe somewhere else. The coaches say he has the ability to play anywhere on the line, and they know he's capable of excelling wherever they put him. "We're just moving the deck around inside, and we'll see how it all shakes out," Drevno said. "He's a guy that could play all five positions. That's how talented he is." Moving to center has had its bene- fits. "The more tools in your toolbox, the better," is one of Cole's favor- ite sayings, and he understands it makes him more valuable at the next level, as well. F o r m e r Wo l v e r i n e G r a h a m Glasgow, once a walk-on, was one who took advantage of his opportu- MAN ON THE MOVE Versatile Mason Cole Moves Back To Left Tackle From Center With High Expectations Cole was the first true freshman to ever start a Michigan season opener on the offensive line, and he has now started 38 straight games in his career. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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