Coming into this week's Jim Harbaugh Football Camps, we had high expectations for the quarterbacks (Thursday) and the kickers/punters (Saturday). Both groups delivered with great competition that gripped our attention on Day One and Day Three. We were also pleasantly surprised with a handful of skill athletes on Friday, the best of which looked to be 6'0" 171-pound wide receiver John Cole.
When we heard in the morning of Day Two that a kid came across the country from Somerset (Ky.), we didn't know what to expect. Cole quickly turned heads with his speed, and the buzz grew through out the day with his playmaking in one-on-one and seven-and-seven drills.
"Any time you're an undersized receiver, you have to show them that you can run," Cole says. "At these camps, show them you can definitely run while they're watching you in person. It's different than seeing it on film. You show them that you can run, and then your route running skills and just your attitude. It's a big notch if you can show them that."
Cole has obvious 4.4 speed and recently ran a 4.40 at the Western Kentucky camp. The Hilltoppers have offered, as well as Eastern Kentucky. Cole picked up his third scholarship offer Friday morning from Vanderbilt, just days after camping in Nashville. The Commodores connected with the wide receiver recruit on the phone just before he started Stanford's camp, jockeying for mindshare while he spent time on The Farm.
The Cardinal have two wideouts committed in the Class of 2008, but they are bigger athletes (6'5" and 6'2"). We would not at all be surprised if Cole, who brings something different to the table, picks up Stanford's newest wide receiver offer. The intrigue from his junior season statistics and film was transformed to excitement following his Friday performance. In the absence of an offer, the Somerset High School senior already names Stanford one of his top two favorites with Vanderbilt.
"It's obviously an amazing campus. Everything is top notch here," Cole reports of his first time on the Cardinal campus. "I'm very impressed by all of their facilities and all they have to offer. The weather is definitely a factor - it's beautiful out here. The campus is bar none, probably the best in the country. I liked it a lot and enjoyed the visit definitely."
Cole also gave positive reviews to the Stanford coaches after working with them for a day.
"They're obviously a great coaching staff," the recruit reports. "They're a young coaching staff, and I like that definitely. They seem to have this program turned in the other direction, headed to the top. It's the overall demeanor. Winning is what they want to do, and I'm pretty confident that they're turning it around."
"He's definitely a great guy," Cole comments on wide receivers coach David Shaw. "He's very knowledgeable. It was great to work with him here at camp, and you can tell he has great experience."
Running backs coach Willie Taggart, a former Western Kentucky player and coach, is the area recruiter in the Bluegrass State. He convinced Cole to trek across the country for Stanford's one-day camp. The Somerset star says he could see himself more permanently on the West Coast.
"Coach Taggart has a Kentucky connection and he talked to me," Cole explains. "We got that connection going. That got me out here to camp, and I loved it. It's not going to bug me to break out and go far away. This is a top notch place, and you can do that with these facilities. I have nothing against coming across the country to play football here."
Though he was not a name commonly discussed in Cardinal recruiting before Friday, Cole is highly regarded back home as a state record-holder. In his junior season, he rewrote the Kentucky record books with 1,891 yards receiving and 28 touchdowns through the air (on 86 catches). Cole totaled 36 scores in 2006, including kick/punt returns (six), rushing (one) and defense (one). His interception returned for a score was one of five picks he snared last season.
Cole earned First-Team All-State honors as a wide receiver. More impressive was his recognition as the only underclassman of the 11 Kentucky players named by the Orlando Sentinel to their 2006 All-Southern team.
28 receiving touchdowns is exciting to any college recruiter, but Stanford's eyes brighten further with Cole's 28 ACT score. He has also notched an 1850 on the SAT. Cole owns a perfect 4.0 GPA at Somerset, having never recorded less than an "A" in high school. His schedule as a junior included AP courses in biology and US. history this past year.
"That's a high thing on my priority list - academics," says the student-athlete. "With Stanford, you definitely can't go wrong in that category."
As for his recruiting timeframe, Cole says he'll play it by ear.
"I'm going to wait and see what happens. If I have a gut instinct and feel like I want to go somewhere, then I'm not going to be scared to early commit. It's kind of whenever I have that feeling."
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