Tariq Cole is no longer the new guy.
With 11 starts last season at left tackle, Cole emerged as a key cog for the Scarlet Knights. Now he looks to complete the next step.
“I can be a lot better,” Cole said. “With (offensive line) coach (AJ) Blaz(ek) behind me, teaching me what I need to do, my footwork needs to get a lot better throughout this year and my kick step needs to get extremely better when I go against guys that know I’m not going to be as physical but more athletic than the guys that are going against. So, I need to work on my pass set, my run blocking and just my communication with the team.”
Blazek looked at Cole to step his game up in the offseason, along with first-year starting right tackle Kamaal Seymour. Each answered the call.
“Tariq, he’s made a major jump,” Blazek said. “Having a full season, the offseason, he’s really detailed a lot of his craft. Kamaal’s still learning O-line, so it probably hasn’t been as big right now, but his progress and football IQ is going off the charts. So, both those guys are having really good springs.”
Cole values experiences against the best of the Big Ten. The room for improvement became obvious into the offseason.
“I learned that going against guys in the Big Ten is a lot harder than I thought it would be,” Cole said. “They’re fast, they’re physical, they’re just as physical as I am. I just need to try and finish more. Pancaking guys is probably one of the bigger things I want to work on this year, and me helping the new tight ends out and taking a little bit of Dorian (Miller) and Jonah (Jackson) plates as far as me communicating about what I’m doing.”
To combat that, Cole tweaked his mentality. A meaner, physical Cole goes through spring camp hungry to leave his mark.
“Our big emphasis this year is just finish,” Cole said. “Coach (Jerry) Kill has said something that we need to implement, which is bludgeon, and that’s just putting guys in the dirt, finishing plus two, just knocking them down. Pick them up, knock them down again, real mental, mental fatigue on their part. So, he just wants us to implement that.”