Commitment Date: 6/20/15
Commitment in the Class: 10th
Accolades: Rated the No.1 offensive tackle in Wisconsin, No.2 in the Midwest and No.5 in the country ... Ranked the No.70 overall player … invited to 2016 U.S. Army All-American Bowl ... two-time first-team all-state by Wisconsin Football Coaches Association and Associated Press as a junior and senior ... two-time Fox River Classic Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year and first-team All-FRCC selection ... team captain and team MVP as a senior ... swept discus and shot put titles at 2015 Wisconsin Division 1 state meet as a junior ... finished state runner-up in both discus and shot put as a sophomore ... father swept Wisconsin Division 2 state titles in discus and shot put in 1994.
Recruiting Story: Although the state doesn’t produce many four-star recruits and even fewer five-star prospects, Wisconsin is known for churning out talented linemen with the tools capable of playing a major role in both college and the pros. Van Lanen has a chance to easily carry on that tradition.
Proficient in both football and track and field, Van Lanen was already getting attention from Iowa, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin a host of other non-power five schools by the fall of his junior year. That attention allowed him to see some memorable games, including Michigan State’s clash with Ohio State and Wisconsin’s demolishing of Nebraska, a game in which Melvin Gordon ran for 408 yards in three quarters.
“Hats off to Melvin Gordon, but some of the holes by the offensive linemen were huge and that's where a lot of the yards come from,” Van Lanen said after. “UW has got some of best offensive linemen in the country.”
By early January Van Lanen had five offers, including one from Iowa after a visit for the school’s junior day. At the same time, Paul Chryst had just been hired to replace Gary Andersen and one of his first priorities was recruiting in-state talent. While he was focusing on finishing the 2015 recruiting class, Chryst made sure Van Lanen knew how important he was to his vision by offering him a scholarship mid-month.
“I grew up in Wisconsin, so I've always been a Badger fan since I was little,” Van Lanen said after the offer. “Just to know I could play for a team that I've been watching for so long means a lot to me. Just to get the opportunity is amazing. It's a great feeling.”
Michigan State, Minnesota and Northern Illinois followed shortly after with offers, and Van Lanen took a late February visit to Madison just to meet with the new staff and hear about the program they wanted to run. In early April, after offering the state’s top overall lineman, Hartland Arrowhead’s Ben Bredeson, Michigan offered Van Lanen and turned up the heat.
Van Lanen visited Wisconsin on back-to-back April weekends for a spring scrimmage and the spring game and headed to Ann Arbor in mid-May. In Michigan he got hounded by offensive coordinator Tim Drevno.
“He was just telling me that I was a huge prospect and that they want me really bad and will do whatever it takes to get me there,” Van Lanen said. “He just really impressed me with the things that he showed me and told me … What Coach Drevno did compared to other coaches is he literally took my film and showed me play by play what he likes about me compared to other people. No other coach has done that with me and that really impressed me. He also showed film of when he was with the 49ers and he put those guys film next to mine and showed me play by play what he was doing right, which is why he wants me so bad on the team. I thought that was awesome.”
But after all the glitz and glamour died down after the visit, Van Lanen said that’s when he decided that Wisconsin was the right program for him to play for and develop in, especially since Chryst and Rudolph had actively and aggressively recruited him for months.
Instead of calling the coaches and telling them over the phone, Van Lanen wanted to do it in person. Waiting until after track season, not to mention adding two state championships to his trophy case, Van Lanen made the trip to Madison to tell the staff of his decision. That trip came three days after Bredeson committed to the Wolverines.
Why Wisconsin? “I love everything about Wisconsin. It’s been my team of choice since I was little. Being a Badger fan, I love the coaches, I love the atmosphere, I love the city, close to home, everything. It’s a bundle package. They’ve been my number one the whole way. Coach Rudolph is basically my second father already, and I’m excited to have the next five years with him. Coach Chryst is an awesome guy, too. I talk to him all the time. I am really close to recruiting coordinator and special teams coach Chris Haering. Those three guys are really close with me, and I love the bond we have already with each other.”
Scouting Report: I love Cole's game. One of the first things I look for in offensive linemen is how easy they can move and bend, and he's a great athlete with good flexibility and quickness. Then, he's mean on the field. He puts guys in the dirt and plays to and through the whistle. I think he'll be very good for Wisconsin. I'd be surprised if he didn't develop into an All-Conference kind of guy for them. – Scout’s Midwest recruiting analyst Allen Trieu
Coach’s Quote: “Cole is a heck of a prospect and we're really glad he's gone from being a recruit to being in our family. He's got size. He's explosive, and he has everything that you want in an offensive lineman. The thing I really enjoyed when you get to know him, he's got an edge to him and he will work and he comes from a great family and he's got support, but I think he's got a chance to be special.” – Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst
BadgerNation Prediction: Van Lanen is one of those unique prospects that can play all five offensive line positions. Although primarily a tackle, Van Lanen showed he can excel at guard when he ran with the starters at left guard at the U.S. Army All-American game, showing to be one of the most consistent linemen during the week with his technique, quickness off the ball and ability to execute on pull blocks. His athleticism is his biggest strength with his toughness not far behind. He doesn't just want to finish blocks; he wants to put players on their back. You can tell watching the film that he loved run blocking.
According to Rudolph, Van Lanen will get a chance in camp to show if he’s ready to crack the two-deep chart on the offensive line.
“A lot of times you won’t know if a guy’s going to get valuable reps in a camp,” Rudolph said. “He will. He’ll get those at tackle and he’ll get a chance to truly show where he’s at. But I think athletically, what you look for, he has those qualities athletically and mentally, the whole deal, to be able to pick something up quick.”