Cole Adjusting To The NFL

Seventh-round pick Audie Cole is feeling comfortable in Minnesota after getting a head start on the defensive basics in January. He talked about the differences between NC State and Minnesota, his familiarity with the defense and more.

As a seventh-round draft choice playing linebacker, Audie Cole knows special teams could be his early calling card, but his familiarity with the Vikings' defensive system and even a coaching connection are making his transition from North Carolina State to the Minnesota Vikings easier.

The Vikings' rookie minicamp was earlier this month, but the beginning of Coles' immersion into the defense started back in January when he was coached by the Vikings for a week of practices at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

"It's not that new because it's the same thing I did at the Senior Bowl. They run the same practices, so nothing has changed since then. Just real high intensity," Cole said after one of his first rookie practices. "The biggest thing is we're not putting much stuff in. You just have to hustle to the ball. Hustle around and can't loaf anywhere.

"So far, we're doing the basics. It's the same thing I've been hearing (since the Senior Bowl), which is good. I've heard it, I understand their terminology."

Cole said the first rookie practice was a little slow for all the new players, but things ratcheted up after that.

Linebackers coach Fred Pagac first coached Cole at the Senior Bowl, but he became familiar with Cole's game before that. Pagac knew the linebackers coach at North Carolina State and kept in contact regarding Cole.

"I've talked to both of them and they joke around with me about each other," Cole said. "I feel good. I feel comfortable and feel good about the coaching staff."

Still, Cole wasn't sure he would end up in Minnesota. He heard his college coach and Pagac were talking about him, but he felt that Kansas City and Carolina were among the other teams showing a keen interest in him.

It also helps Cole's transition that he played come Cover-2 – the basic principle of the Vikings' defense – in college. He also played different linebacker positions, which will help him as Minnesota's coaches search for the best fit for him.

At the Senior Bowl, he played mostly weakside linebacker, but he said that mainly because of the other linebacker personnel available in Mobile. In college, he played middle and strongside linebacker, staring 25 games at outside linebacker before moving inside last year and garnering career highs in tackles (108), tackles for a loss (13.5), sacks (5.5) and forced fumbles (four).

During rookie minicamp, the 6-foot-5, 239-pounder played outside and middle linebacker.

There are differences between what the Wolfpack asks of their linebackers – especially the strongside linebacker – and the Vikings' philosophy, but Cole is keeping the bigger picture in perspective.

"Obviously I have to get used to the new system. But when it comes down to it, you're just playing football," he said about the challenges during the transition from NC State to the NFL.

"Obviously the speed of the game, which I haven't even seen it because we're all still young guys, but once you get up with the veterans and stuff, the strength, the speed. I still don't know that because I haven't done it."

The early days of rookie minicamp focused on hustling to the ball, but Cole knows eventually the meat and potatoes of the defensive schemes will have to be dug into. That could start in earnest next week when veterans, rookies and the coaching staff merge for the start of organized team activities.

But unless Cole wows coaches enough to earn a starting job, he knows special teams is where he will have to make an early impression.

"That's huge. I know that's where I've got to make it. You're not going to come in – I'm nobody to come in and be a starting linebacker right away," he said. "Obviously that's what I'm going to try to do, but special teams is where I've got to make it and every other (rookie) out there, maybe except for the offensive lineman (first-rounder Matt Kalil). But every other person, that's what we've got to do. That's just part of it."

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