Early enrollees Mason Cole and Bryan Mone have both garnered unsolicited acclaim from veteran teammates this spring, and on Tuesday, when informed about the praise, the two were bashfully appreciative.
"I try not to pay attention to that stuff, but I don't think they expected a freshman to come in and play well, and maybe they didn't expect a freshman to adjust well," said Cole, who was quick to return the acclaim. "I wouldn't have done any of this without their help. Guys like Jack Miller, Kyle Bosch, Erik Magnuson. Without them helping me, they wouldn't be complementing me."
The 6-5, 275-pound offensive tackle (he said he is now up to 286) has practiced some with the ones. At first, it was because of injuries to redshirt sophomore Erik Magnuson (out all spring recovering from shoulder surgery) and redshirt freshman Logan Tuley-Tillman (hand that sidelined him the first two weeks), but Cole proved he belonged taking snaps with the top unit.
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"He's a guy that is holding his own every time I'm up against him," sophomore defensive end Taco Charlton said last week. "I can see something special there. He's getting better each time I go against him. He's going to be a great player. I believe that."
Cole has surprised himself with how much of the offense he has absorbed already, and believes his ability to learn the playbook quickly has greatly enhanced his development.
It has helped that sophomore Kyle Bosch (an early enrollee himself) and redshirt freshman Patrick Kugler have taken Cole under their wing.
"The offensive line is a group of great guys," he said. "We're all really close, which is good.
"Everyone on the team has made it easy for me. Physically, I figured it was going to be really hard when I got here and it was really hard, workouts, conditioning and practice, but I adjusted well and got stronger this offseason, and in better shape."
The 6-4, 315-pound Mone thinks his attitude has impressed teammates the most, and it's easy to see why - the Utah native is the classic big teddy bear, always smiling, his personality slowly breaking through his natural shyness.
"I'm just having fun, being blessed," he said. "Just having fun playing the game is what I think my teammates have noticed. My enthusiasm is the main thing I bring to the field."
More than 1,500 miles from his home in Salt Lake City, Mone admitted he was homesick in January, but that anguish diminished.
"My great teammates helped me step over that," he said. "With school and football, it was really hard the first three weeks, but everything is falling into place now."
Practicing at the nose, Mone has plenty of competition, including redshirt sophomores Willie Henry and Ryan Glasgow, and redshirt freshman Maurice Hurst, but he feels he brings something positive to the team.
"I like trying to be a run stuffer. Being mean and nasty," he said, in stark contrast to his quiet demeanor.
As for those veterans, both Cole and Mone said there are a few that have stood out to them too.
"[Senior defensive ends] Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer are quick, they're smart, they're strong," Cole said. "They are freaks."
"Patrick Kugler is a beast," Mone added. "Off the field, we talk about getting each other better. On the field, his technique is amazing. I don't know how he does it. I thought I'd get him with speed, but he's always there waiting for me."