Michigan freshman offensive lineman Mason Cole is an early enrollee and has already made an impression in his month in Ann Arbor. Offensive line coach Darrell Funk sees a bright future for the Florida native, and for many of the other young linemen.
The majority of the linemen come from the last three classes, meaning it's still young talent. Cole joins Juwann Bushell-Beatty of Paramus, N.J., Catholic in the 2014 signees.
"I think he's doing a great job," Funk said of the Tarpon Springs East Lake product. "We always talk about getting the kids in and getting them acclimated, especally with the distance and kids coming from Florida, having a chance to get their academics, tutors and lifting. He's done a great job. Even though Mason is young for his class, he was mature and handled it well. He's made a seamless entry into the program."
Head coach Brady Hoke mentioned Cole as one who could vie for playing time next year. It wouldn't be unprecedented, obviously, given that guard Kyle Bosch, an early enrollee last year, played in 2013.
"Losing the two tackles we had, the opportunity is out there," Funk said. "We'll get a little more hands on, one on one work in the spring and be able to help him one on one which will help speed his progress up. He's done a great job in the weight room … he's everything we thought he would be athletically and right on track."
Though young, the line is expected to take a huge step forward this fall. The unit was the biggest disappointment on a team that finished 7-6 last season.
'There are so many guys from the youngest three classes, 12 of them, but we don't have any choice but to move forward," Funk said. "It will be who picks it up the quickest. They are all working hard, doing great job preparing. It will be who picks up scheme quickest, takes on that competitive nature to surge past the other guys that remains to be seen.
"They've all done a great job in the weight room. I've watched their bodies change. Every couple months we have different testing results with how they've come along. I'm anxious to see them play."
Youth brings inexperience, but it's up to the coaches to put the group in a better position to succeed.
"We also have to do a better job putting them in positions where they don't have to think as much," Funk said. "We'll try to do that. It was the inside positons - that's where struggled at times last year. But the nice thing about playg young guys before they're ready, this year, next year they'll say, 'when I was a true freshman playing, that really helps me now."