Cole, people don't always realize that it takes awhile to become an SEC lineman. You came from a small school, Caledonia High School. You already had the frame and the height, but your were something like 265 pounds when you first got to Mississippi State. Talk about the transition coming from Caledonia to Mississippi State.
It was really big, not so much mental as physical. I had to stay in the weight room and get on a proper diet, trying to add muscle so I would have the SEC size to compete on the field.
Some guys, after a redshirt freshman year, say they are ready. But you weren't really ready even after your redshirt year, were you?
My redshirt freshman year we had a lot of great offensive linemen for me to learn from. Learning from them the mental and physical aspect, living in the weight room, staying on a proper diet, trying to put on as (physical) muscle and mental muscle, learning the plays in the playbook all helped.
You are now a fourth-year junior. How do you feel this year, mentally and physically? Do you feel you have everything down pat now?
I feel like you can't learn everything. Every day is a new day. With every day comes new schemes, new defenses, new looks so you have to continue to grind to prepare for all of that.
Being a fourth-year guy is it easier to pick up things?
Oh sure, most definitely. As far as seeing defenses, my freshman year it was block that guy like I did in high school. Now I can tell when certain defenses are coming, when there is pressure coming away, maybe the end is dropping or the linebacker is shooting the gap. It is more learning to read things. Of course you have to stay in the film room and pick up on things like that.
Would you say that is what is called slowing the game down?
It really is. I was always told that 80% of the game is mental, and the other percent is physical. Once you get that down it slows the game down. It definitely feels like it has slowed the game down tons since my first year here.
Does it make the game more fun once it slows down?
Most definitely. You can get out there and work on your technique, work on new things and really get after it.
What is it like facing a Manny Diaz defense from the offensive line perspective, maybe compared to a Geoff Collins defense?
It is definitely the same psycho defense. Coach (Geoff) Collins and Coach Diaz are great coaches. It is all in your face and definitely tough.
What are your thoughts about this year's offensive line?
We are young and learning everyday. In the past we had guys like Gabe Jackson, Dillon Day, Ben Beckwith and Blaine Clausell, all of whom had been in the program and knew the systen. Now we (only) have a couple of returning starters. It is definitely tough. But we are coming in and working hard and grinding every day trying to get better each and every day. And our main goal is to not be satisfied with just being average.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network.