Although the Wolverines (5-5, 3-3 Big Ten) are making history in a different kind of way this season, Cole has been a major positive for a program in need of difference makers on the field.
Now 10 games -- and starts -- into his career at Michigan, Cole isn’t focused on the significance as the only true freshman to start at left tackle for the Wolverines.
“I’m not going to let the distraction (get to me),” Cole said Tuesday. “And this coaching staff isn’t going to let the distraction get to me.”
“I guess it’s something special but I just do what I can,” added Cole.
Arriving in Ann Arbor after enrolling early in January, Cole said temperatures were in the negative but thankfully the Florida native did come fully equipped with a winter jacket.
Diving right into winter workouts and prepping for spring football, Cole, 18, knew physically it would be a significant challenge to go up against a guy like senior defensive end Frank Clark, a full three years older than him.
“When you’re not as strong, not as big as some guys you just got to play with great technique,” Cole said. “That’s what Coach Funk’s taught me so I’ve tried to do that to the best of my ability.”
Regardless, Cole knew if he invested the time he’d have a chance to see the field his first year at Michigan.
“The coaching staff, when I first got here said, everyone will have the same opportunity,” Cole said. “That everything was open and thanks to Coach Funk, he coached me well and I won it out I guess.”
And Cole hasn’t looked back.
Growing up idolizing the likes of Taylor Lewan and Jake Long, both of whom started for four years at Michigan following a redshirt, Cole really wasn’t confident he’d secure that starting nod protecting Devin Gardner’s blindside until just weeks before the season opener against Appalachian State.
“Probably like midway through camp and things were going well,” Cole said. “I just got the vibe that I could happen to be the starter.”
“I was nervous the first time but there’s great players on this team that I go against in practice every day,” Cole added. “It prepared me well for that.”
Cole also credits his high school coach at Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake, Bob Hudson, for teaching him some of the nuances of the game during his four years as an Eagle.
Part of that preparation has allowed Cole to be a very consistent performer for Michigan and someone Brady Hoke says you don’t pay too much attention to because he’s not making many mistakes.
“I don’t know if I don’t make mistakes,” Cole said with a smirk. “Everyone makes mistakes, maybe mine are just less drastic than they could be but I don’t think so.
“I guess I try to do the right thing whenever I can on the field and off the field too.”