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The NFL Draft Report

From one of the most colorful draft analysts in the industry, now you can read the reports The NFL Draft Report has provided league scouting departments for over 40 years.

The NFL Draft Report's "NFL Future Stars" Series - With A Slew Of Wolverines Vying For National Honors, Michigan's Mason Cole Is Becoming The Center Of Attention For NFL Scouts


No matter where Mason Cole lines up in 2016, one thing is certain - that defensive linemen will go home remembering the battle he was just in with #52

MASON COLE   Offensive Center/Tackle   University of Michigan Wolverines   #52   6:04.5-308   Tarpon Springs, Florida   East Lake High School

When Jim Harbaugh took over the University of Michigan program, the Wolverines secured a coach who is not only innovative, but one that has “old school” football philosophy, having grown up in a football coaching environment. Much like former NFL greats, Paul Brown, Chuck Noll and Al Davis, Harbaugh recognizes that the chemistry developed by the offensive line is imperative for any success the team will have in reaching the end zone.

Those former football legends also recognized that in order to have a quality front wall, you need to build from within and then branch the talent level to the outside. Teams like Dallas have had success building their line from the tackle positions and then plugging warm bodies inside. In Harbaugh’s system, you will not see those typically squat fireplugs handling snapping duties. No, the former quarterback wants his centers to be tall, large and most importantly, smart.

The 2014 Michigan team had stumbled to a 5-7 record, utilizing 6:03 at center. Once Harbaugh arrived in 2015, the offensive line underwent a massive overhaul. First to go was Miller, as the coach shifted 6:06 left guard Graham Glasgow to center. Taking his place at left guard would be Ben Braden, who performed at right tackle in 2014. Backup left tackle Erik Magnuson would slide into the spot vacated by Braden shifting inside. Kyle Kalis would remain the right guard and Mason Cole remained stationed at the demanding left tackle position.

Bubba Paris played college football at the University of Michigan, where he was named All-Big Ten, All-American and was also a (second team) Academic All-American. He went on to play for the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL from 1983 to 1990 and for the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions in 1991. He was a member of three 49ers teams that won the Super Bowl. He won the Len Eshmont Award in 1987, as selected by his teammates on the 49ers

Cole was an anomaly, even by the Wolverines standards. In 2014, he became the first true freshman in school history to start a season opener along the offensive line when he joined the first unit vs. Appalachian State. By doing so, he joined former Michigan All-American William “Bubba” Paris (1978) as the only Wolverines to start a game at tackle as true freshmen.

While most experts say it takes time for chemistry to develop up front, Harbaugh committed to his five starters, as that unit remained intact throughout the 2015 schedule. Yes, there were a few blips, especially early in the season, as the front wall struggled during their first two teams together and also had to adjust to the cadence called by incoming quarterback Jake Rudock. Toss in the fact that injuries to the running unit saw their receivers and even their strong safety have to step up and carry the ball on more than a handful of plays.

By the time the second half of the season rolled around, the line was operating on “all eight cylinders.” Quietly, and without being recognized – something most offensive linemen have to deal with; the anonymity of playing that position – Cole was performing at peak level. In the NFL scouting industry, linemen are graded on blocking consistency. Any grade received at 90% or better is considered excellent. In five of his final six appearances, the 2015 left tackle achieved that level.

When 2016 spring camp rolled around, Harbaugh was again tinkering with his offensive line. With Graham Glasgow now a member of the Detroit Lions, the coach turned to his 6:05 left tackle to take over as the “big man” in the middle of his revised offensive line. Cole made the seamless adjustment to the pivot, a position usually reserved for the “fireplugs.” Glasgow, who is battling for the starting job with the Lions, is the NFL’s tallest center this year. Last season, that honor fell to Miami’s 6:05 Mike Pouncey. On the other end of the spectrum, the shortest center in the league currently starting is Arizona’s 5:11 A.Q. Shipley.

By utilizing Cole’s drive blocking ability and exceptional success stalking second level defenders, Harbaugh reasons that his average ground game would benefit greatly by having this 25-game starter out in front on traps and pulls. To make the move work, seldom used sophomore, Grant Newsome, will have to convince the staff he is ready to step in at left tackle. Both Braden and Kalis did not have awe-inspiring performances at the guard positions last year and their projected right tackle, Erik Magnuson had several issues last season where Cole was forced to shift to the right side and give Magnuson a “breather” on the bench. With obvious great genes coming from his father, sophomore Jon Runyan is a name to watch, if the guard situation does not improve for the Wolverines.

Cole not only excelled as an offensive tackle at East Lake, but was often used to plug rush lanes as a defensive lineman in short yardage situations

THE HIGH SCHOOL STANDOUT WHO SLIPPED PAST THE FLORIDA RECRUITERS

The Tarpon Springs, Florida resident attended East Lake High School before joining the Wolverines. A four-year starter in the trenches, he was a USA Today All-American pick as a senior, adding first-team All-Area and All-State accolades during both of his junior season, leading to an invitation to play in the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Cole first emerged on the recruiting camp circuit back in the summer of 2011, when he was a rising sophomore who was quickly recognized as a talent to keep an eye on by Rivals.com (Keith Niebuhr) after his performance at the National Underclassman camp. Their staff writer stated, “This is someone who looks like he has a bright future. Cole is lean and has great length. For his size, and the fact he's still young, he has quick feet and excellent lateral movement. His technique was as good as any linemen on hand either day. Cole's punch slowed or stopped numerous defenders, and he was smooth enough on his feet to effectively contain the speed rushers. His comprehension is high.”

That success continued throughout his prep career and he was named one of the top prospects at a Florida State camp, despite playing with a cast on his left hand. Standing 6:05 and at 267-pounds, scouts noticed that he was very athletic with quick feet and hands. He did a good job of establishing a solid base and using his arm length off the snap. He showed the quickness to immediately get out and on a defender and easily gained traction when blocking and sustaining his blocks.

Known for his incredible balance on the move, Cole's East Lake coach, Bob Hudson, said of him: "He's that guy, as a coach, that you want a whole team of. He does what he's supposed to do. He stays out of trouble. He's not late to meetings. He's not lazy. He's always moving. He's coachable. He can take criticism. He doesn't need praise every play. He's what you dream of as a coach."

Tarpon Springs East Lake High School plays in Florida's largest classification (8A) and thanks to Cole’s blocking up front as a junior, they reached the regional final before bowing out to Orlando Dr. Phillips. East Lake not only produced Cole for Michigan, but that same team developed Clemson’s rising star at wide receiver - Artavis Scott. The team also featured five-star Florida State recruit, George Campbell. While Cole accepted the scholarship offer from Michigan, the other two also listed that university as finalists before making their decisions.

Michigan was not the only school coveting Cole’s services. While narrowing down his list, he still had over twenty offers on the table. Some of the more notable requests for his services came from Alabama, Arkansas, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee, Southern California, and Wisconsin. In most recruiting circles, it is safe to say that was about as impressive an offer list as you'll see a prospect have at this stage.

HELLO ANN ARBOR, GOOD BYE TARPON SPRINGS

It is very rare for an athlete to leave the recruiting hotbed areas that Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference recruiters scour, but former head coach Brady Hoke knew that he had his featured prize when he announced his 2014 class. Having entered the program at 267 pounds, Cole embraced the weight room and by the time he was to make his college debut, the coaches announced he would go one step further vs. Appalachian State – becoming the first Wolverines offensive lineman to debut as a starter.

“Summer cooking” on campus added twenty-five pounds to the youngster’s frame. Some other schools had projected Cole as a right tackle, figuring he would need time for his body to mature. His head coach, knowing his job was on the line, gambled that his freshman would produce. The gamble paid off, at least where Cole was concerned, but a 5-7 season soon saw Brady Hoke hit the unemployment line.

The 2013 team had problems both on and off the field, especially with their former All-American left tackle, Taylor Lewan. There was that classic meltdown vs. Michigan State that saw Lewan penalized for three flagrant fouls, including one for spitting on an opponent. Then, later in the year, an Ohio State fan alleged that Lewan assaulted him assaulted outside a downtown Ann Arbor restaurant on November 30th. The entire front wall needed to be “blown up” after that 2013 season, as they finished 105th in the nation after allowing 36 sacks for losses of 270 yards, along with seeing their ball carriers being tackled for losses 114 times and their quarterbacks having to dodge 29 pressures.

Having graduated from high school in December, Cole enrolled early at Michigan in January 2014 at the age of seventeen. He was so impressive in spring practice and during fall drills, that he became the “talk” even in the locker room. "Mason is a phenomenal player,” running back Justice Hayes noted, at the time. “He is a freshman but he doesn't play like it at all. He plays like he's been there for a couple years."

Cole made his collegiate debut as a starter at left tackle, producing a pair of touchdown-resulting blocks during that impressive performance vs. Appalachian State

Since true freshmen became eligible to play in the NCAA, starting in 1972, only five first-year players have started any games on Michigan's offensive line: Bubba Paris (one game in 1978), Tom Dixon (one game in 1980), Dean Dingman (three games in 1987), Justin Boren (one game in 2006) and Kyle Bosch (three games in 2013). In the 2014 season opener, Michigan backs set a Michigan single-game record with 9.7 yards per carry (350 yards on 36 carries), and the offensive line was credited with the outburst.

Cole earned Freshman All-American status for his performance replacing Lewan at left tackle in 2014. On seventeen of their touchdown runs, thirteen were recorded behind the left side blocking. He helped the Wolverines gain 3,996 yards in total offense, with the ground attack benefitting to the tune of 162.83 yards per game, a marked improvement from the 2013 average of 125.7 yards. They reduced their sacks allowed total to twenty-five and allowed seventy total tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

The 2015 season was actually two combined into one – the first, the early season struggles – the second, chemistry-in-motion, as Cole delivered 85 key blocks/knockdowns, providing rush lanes on 21-of-27 touchdown runs, while also posting key touchdown-resulting blocks on eight pass plays. Perhaps as a sign his move to center will see him emerge as a dominant trap blocker, he recorded nine down field blocks that led to big gains on scoring drives.

The team yielded eighteen sacks; 4.5 coming over the left tackle, but he still recorded the highest blocking consistency grade for all but one left tackle in the league (Michigan State’s Jack Conklin posted an 88.41 mark), registering in at 86.85%, earning excellent scores (90% or better) in seven contests, including in five of his last six appearances.

Through the first six games on the 2016 schedule, Cole leads all of the nation’s centers and guards with a blocking consistency grade of 96.33%, based on 73 key blocks/knockdowns that included crucial blocks on eighteen touchdown drives. With Cole in the middle, the Wolverines are averaging 255.0 yards per game and reached the end zone twenty-five times with their ball carriers.

The 2015 unit was averaging 201.33 yards while compiling fifteen scores within the same time frame. Last season, through the first six contests, Michigan averaged 189.17 aerial yards per game, as they completed 60.06% of their throws (106-of-175) with five touchdowns and six interceptions. The 2016 version is averaging 215.0 yards passing while accounting for twelve touchdowns.

THE MICHIGAN OFFENSIVE LINEMEN AND THE NFL DRAFT

Since the two leagues merged and devised a universal draft in 1970, there have been nineteen Michigan offensive tacklers selected, but only seven centers have heard their names called. While those numbers lack quantity, the list includes some impressive quality, at least in regards to what rounds they were taken in. Cole’s teammate in 2015, Graham Glasgow, was selected in the third round of this year’s draft, with Detroit fully expecting the versatile lineman to open the season as their starter.

There is a drop-off in the talent base at center after Glasgow, as David Molk was a seventh round pick by San Diego in 2012, but has appeared in only twenty games, to date. Rod Payne was a third round choice by Cincinnati in 1998, but soon bombed out of the league after one year that saw him get a few snaps in six contests. 1976 Denver fifth round pick, Jim Czirr and 1973 16th round Chicago Bears choice, Bill Hart, never suited up for an NFL team. Fellow 16th rounder, Guy Murdock, played in fourteen games for the old Houston Oilers in 1972.

Steve Everitt's NFL career spanned from 1993-2000, playing for the Browns, Ravens, Eagles and Rams. As a freshman at Michigan, Everitt started all 12 games at center for the 1989 Wolverines football team that compiled a 10-2 record in Bo Schembechler's last season as their head coach. As a senior, he started all 12 games for the undefeated 1992 Michigan team that compiled a 9-0-3 record, outscored opponents 389-198, and defeated Washington in the 1993 Rose Bowl. He was selected as a first-team player on the 1992 All-Big Ten Conference football team

The only Michigan center since the merger to have some success in the NFL was 1992 All-Big Ten Conference pick, Steve Everitt. He was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the first round (14th overall pick) of the 1993 NFL Draft, playing three seasons for the Browns from 1993 to 1995, appearing in 46 games, including 45 games at the team's starting center.

After the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996 Everitt was fined $5,000 by the league for wearing a Browns bandana with his Ravens uniform, which he did in protest of the team's relocation . He appeared in eight games for the Ravens in 1996. In March 1997, Everitt signed a five-year $11.5 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. He spent three years with the Eagles, appearing in 45 games as the team's starting center. In April 2000, Everitt was released by the Eagles.

In June 2000, Everitt signed a two-year contract with the St. Louis Rams. He appeared in only four games for the Rams, one as a starter, and all during the 2000 NFL season. In eight years in the NFL, Everitt appeared in 103 games, 98 of them as a starter, and registered five fumble recoveries.

Where the University of Michigan offensive line draft talent pool comes from is at tackle. Of the nineteen drafted since 1970, six were chosen in Round One and seven more joined the league as second round selections. In fact, each of the last five Wolverines tackles to play in the NFL were taken in either of the first two rounds, including Jake Long, the top overall pick in the 2008 draft by the Miami Dolphins. It would be six years later when Taylor Lewan would hear his name called in the first round, starting the last two years for Tennessee after they made him the 11th overall pick in 2014.

The first Michigan tackle to earn first round status since the merger was Mike Kenn, who would start 251-of-255 games after joining Atlanta as the 13th selection in 1978. The next year, Jon Giesler went 24th overall to Miami, starting 105-of-126 games before retiring in 1988. It would not be until 1995 for the next first round Michigan tackle to come along, as Trezelle Jenkins became a Kansas City Chief. However, in three seasons, he only saw game action nine times. Six years later, in 2001, Jeff Backus was the 18th pick in the draft by Detroit, starting his entire career (191 games) until leaving the gridiron in 2012.

The 2015 Michigan offensive line got off to a rough start in the schedule, but following their cue from their left tackle, the second half displayed one dominant performance after another. In five of his last six appearances that year, Cole recorded blocking consistency grades of 90% or better

Cole is just the second left tackle in school history to start a game as a freshman and the only one to ever start a season opener. The first time a frosh started for the Wolverines was Bubba Paris. Paris would later go on to become an All-Pro after joining the San Francisco 49ers as the 29th pick (second round) in 1982. He stood with the 49ers until 1990, joining the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions in 1991. He was a member of three 49ers teams that won the Super Bowl. He won the Len Eshmont Award in 1987, as selected by his teammates on the 49ers. With four sons, it is his twin daughters who are the “athletes” of the family. Courtney and Ashley each currently play in the WNBA for the Tulsa Shock and Phoenix Mercury women's basketball teams respectively.

Some other “near” first round misses was unearthed at Michigan, as several of their second round tackles went on to glory. One, Dan Dierdorf, became a member of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971 and he started 150 times before ending his Hall of Fame career in 1983. Giants fans still recall the power that “Jumbo” Elliott brought to the trench wars, as the 1988 second rounder started 156 times until he hung up his helmet in 2002. Washington also benefitted greatly by taking Jon Jansen in the second round of the 1999 phase. They got 125 starting appearances from their blocker before he retired in 2009.

Cole might be playing alongside a renowned Michigan legacy in 2015, if the young Jon Runyan has any playing skills similar to his father, also named Jon. The elder Runyan was an All-State pick in basketball and two-time state champion shot putter during his high school days before enrolling at Michigan. The 1995 All-Big Ten selection was later taken by the Houston Oilers in the fourth round of the 1996 draft. He would start 192-of-207 games during his NFL career that lasted until 2009.

Runyan later played for the Philadelphia Eagles and San Diego Chargers and when he retired, he was the last active NFL player to have played for the Oilers. In fourteen seasons, he earned one trip to Hawaii, when he participated in the 2003 Pro Bowl following the 2002 NFL season. After retiring, he became the U.S. Representative for New Jersey's Third congressional district from 2011 to 2015.

THE NFL DRAFT REPORT…NOTE-Cole’s evaluation takes into consideration that he moved to center in 2016 and will be analyzed based on that shift, but additional analysis is also discussed here, based on his performance as a left tackle the last two seasons.

Cole sets with a strong base, but it is his wing span that Jim Harbaugh recognizes as a deciding element to moving his star left tackle to center, where those long arms are certain to widen rush lanes


BODY STRUCTURE…Cole has good mass and muscle tone throughout his thick frame. He has the thighs, calves and bubble teams look for in an anchor in the middle of the line. His arms have the desired length for a left offensive tackle and he has very good upper body strength and powerful hands, evident by the way he consistently pushes defenders back coming off the snap. He is a broad-shouldered type with good chest thickness. He has a tight midsection, good leg length and looks very athletic for a down lineman (can easily get his pads low, as he does not have the anticipated girth you see in most centers).

ATHLETIC ABILITY…Center/Guard Position…Cole is a competitive athlete who plays with good athleticism that he combines with aggression yet, he is as smart as a chess master and won’t make foolish mistakes. He has a bit of a mauler’s attitude, but gets his hands inside the defender’s jersey quickly. He has very good snap quickness and shows good flexibility and balance on the move. He displays the body control you look for in a center when asking him to reach and shade, along with showing the ability to get his hips around for wall-off activity. He plays on his feet and has the quickness to chip and seal, along with good angle concept when working into the second level to block for the ground game. He uses his loose hips to make plays in space and possesses more than enough strength to turn his man and widen the rush lanes. He is the strongest player on the team and uses his power to his advantage, especially doing a nice job of adjusting to movement in pass protection.

Tackle Position…Cole has natural strength and quickness, as his 40-yard dash clocking of 5.06 is one of the best among 2017 NFL Draft eligible offensive tackles and centers. He shows excellent balance and change of direction flexibility, along with outstanding acceleration when working into the second level. He plays on his feet well, thanks to superb balance and shows the body control to play and adjust in space and pick up blocks on the move down field. He can slide and readjust to mirror edge rushers in pass protection. He also displays the lower body flexibility to drop his pads and anchor firmly vs. stunts and the bull rush. He shows ease of movement accelerating into the second level and excellent change of direction agility to make plays working down the line. He plays with a strong base, keeping his feet wide and pad level low to generate enough explosiveness coming off the snap. He has the lateral range to make adjustments in his pass set. Cole bends his knees with good flexibility and shows that he has the quickness to get out on the edge and seal off the rush (see 2015 Brigham Young, Minnesota and Penn State games). He has the agility to pull and trap with effectiveness from the outside position and displays good hand usage and the redirection skills to mirror on stunts and blitzes.

FOOTBALL SENSE…Center/Guard Position…Cole showed during 2016 spring drills that he has no problem taking plays from the chalk board to the playing field. He is aware of defensive coverage and keeps his head on a swivel to locate and neutralize twists and games. He picks up blocking schemes well and is very good at working in unison with his guards on scoop and fold blocks. He makes proper line calls and it is rare to see him make a mental mistake. Despite his youth, he is perfectly capable of calling blocking assignments up front. It is easy for him to learn and retain plays and he knows all of his line mates’ assignments, doing a good job of making adjustments up front. He is a very low-rep type who does a fine job locating twists and games. He is also a versatile sort, with experience playing both weak-side and strong-side tackle.

Do not be fooled by Mason Cole's pleasant smile off the field. On the field, he plays with a "take no prisoners" attitude. Here, he is telling an Ohio State defender to "play nice" or he will send him to bed without any dinner

Tackle Position…Cole plays with very good awareness in pass protection, as he is quick to locate and pick up games and stunts instantly. He does a nice job chipping to the second level and is very alert on the edge to neutralize pass rushers in space. He has no problems digesting the playbook and deals with the mental aspect of the game well. He is very quick to pick up defensive schemes and has good work ethic. He is the type who shows enough savvy to make blocking calls, if needed.

COMPETITIVENESS…Center/Guard Position…Cole shows toughness with the strength to back it up. He has a passion and effort few centers show in this year’s draft class, as he is the type that is certain to keep all the “youngsters” on the 2016 line in check for the Wolverines, as he knows that the front wall has to be a better job of establishing dominance in hopes for widening the rush lanes for a suspect ground attack. He works hard to finish and is the type that a coach will be confident in his ability to play from snap-to-whistle. Cole is the type that is strictly “old school,” as you will never see him take a play off or throttle down on the field. He shows tremendous passion and effort in the trenches and works hard to leverage and finish. He loves the challenge taking on stunts and schemes, leaving everything he has out on the field.

Tackle Position…Cole is a highly competitive sort who plays with great effort and toughness until the whistle and will not hesitate to go down field and block, playing as if he has a “chip on his shoulder” and that defensive linemen are his mortal enemies. He competes hard in both games and practices and the coaching staff cites his hard work ethic as a reason for him being the first offensive lineman in school history to debut as a starter. He will not hesitate to intimidate an opponent. He is the type that plays until the whistle and keeps his head on a swivel looking for defenders to attack. He consistently finishes and likes to mix it up in the trenches. He has a mauler’s personality and always finishes off his blocks. He works hard to redirect and sustain and will play with pain. In 2015, he displayed more aggression in his game and despite the team’s offensive line’s early season struggles, he never throttled down on the field, playing each down as if it was his last. His epic battle with BYU’s Bronson Kaufusi and more than standing up to the challenge when Penn State threw everything but the “kitchen sink” at him (four defenders failed to penetrate the backfield, despite those Lions all playing on fresh legs), along with dominance in the trenches vs. both Minnesota and Rutgers are evident of his football nature.

INITIAL QUICKNESS…Center/Guard Position…Cole has excellent snap quickness and does a very good job of firing low off the ball with hands ready to do combat on his rise. He shows the flexibility and balance of a Nick Mangold (New York Jets) and has the body control you look for in a tall center when reaching and shading. He has that quick hip snap to get then around when trying to wall off. You can see on film his foot speed when reaching and down blocking. He is also very effective at generating speed needed to chip and reach the second level defenders. He is a fast twitch type that will not have any problems when attempting to lock and load on a nose guard at the next level. Because of his balance and low pad level, Cole can have great success in gaining advantage coming off the snap. He is especially effective executing second level blocks and shows decisive movement in his stance.

Tackle Position…Cole has very good initial quickness for the left tackle position. He is very light on his feet for a player his size and shows the ability to immediately react to movement. He is sudden working to gain position working in-line or when reaching into the second level. He generates explosive pop on contact, especially in pass protection and has that long wing-span that he uses effectively to engulf edge rushers. He gets to top speed quickly and does a very good job of getting up field to neutralize the linebackers. He has nimble feet and excellent redirection agility to make proper body adjustments on the move. He is also very quick to gain hand placement, using his long reach to keep defenders at bay. He shows ease of movement in his kick slide and can really gain a head of steam when he gets moving. When he gains advantage on a defender with his foot speed, he works hard to keep it. He has the short area speed to get up field and shows the strong base to maintain his position when working in-line (see 2015 UNLV, BYU, Minnesota and Rutgers games). He shows very good explosion rising out of his stance, executing that sudden first step needed to leverage the defender for the angle and power drives. He was quick to accelerate up field coming off the snap and demonstrates good consistency getting into position as a run blocker who can easily reach the second level.

Thanks to his footwork and balance, Cole is quick to get back into the backfield when he sees the pocket being compromised



LATERAL MOVEMENT…Center/Guard Position…During 2015 spring scrimmages, Cole was surprisingly nimble for a down lineman with his height, evident by his second level angling skills and ability to get out front with good urgency on traps and pulls. He keeps his pads down to prevent bigger defenders from getting into his chest, along with the balance and hand quickness to prevent smaller opponents from attacking his legs. He possesses the loose hips, needed for him to keep his pads down to change direction quickly. He shows good explosion out of his stance to get out front on pulls and traps. His lateral movement skills are evident on combo, cross, fold and scoop blocks. He has above average feet and agility, showing ease of movement redirecting to either side.

Tackle Position…Cole has fluid lateral agility and movement, keeping his feet on pulls and when moving up field. He maintains balance and body control when changing direction and is sudden when having to redirect. You can see the explosiveness in his feet and his lateral flexibility getting through holes when asked to pull. As a sophomore, you could see that he improved his balance and change of direction agility. He appears very light on his feet, especially when sliding in pass protection (see 2015 BYU, Minnesota and Indiana games) and with his wide frame and excellent arm length, he had no problems locking on and riding away edge rushers from the pocket. He does do a good job of getting out in front on screens, taking good angles to neutralize linebackers when leading the ground game around the edge.

With that strong base, when Cole "Looks to the Sky" (neck arched and back flat), he can ride any defender out of the rush lane, doing so on 21 touchdown-resulting running plays for the Wolverines in 2015



BALANCE/STAYS ON HIS FEET…Center/Guard Position…Cole is not a “grass hugger” (he can consistently stay on his feet), as he has that strong anchor and good balance to prevent bull rushers from walking him back into the pocket. He shoots his hands with force, especially when combating in tight areas and does a very nice job of keeping his weight low and centered. With that above average base, he has no problem sliding his feet to maintain, sustain and position. With his strong upper body, he is consistent when attempting to lock out and control. It is very rare to see him expose his chest, but even when he does, his base is strong enough that defenders still can’t knock him off his feet. He has the balance and body control to quickly get position. His balance and foot agility allows him to stay on his blocks. He also displays fluid moves adjusting in space. He can shuffle, slide and adjust with his sharp change of direction skills. The thing I like about him is his ability to keep his weight back and stay in control.

Tackle Position…Cole consistently plays at a low pad level, quickly generating the explosive burst to gain advantage. He is able to cover defenders up, thanks to his long reach and large hands. Even at his size, he shows no problem getting low in his stance to attain proper leverage, displaying excellent knee bend. He plays on his feet well, using his hands to sustain. He plays with steady effort and is a strong, physical finisher. Once he locks on to a defender, he will generally win the battle. Even vs. the bull rush, defenders have a very difficult time attempting to knock him off his base. He always plays with his feet and base wide, which allows him to battle throughout the play. He uses his hands with force to gain position and is a nasty finisher whose hand quickness and placement lets him mirror his man and sustain blocks. Even when he over-extends, he is quick to recover. His body control lets him excel on the pull. It is very rare to see him lunge or fall to the ground, using his long arms to generate solid reach blocks. What impressed scouts most about Cole in 2015 was his ability to get out in front on traps and the quickness he showed working to the second level (see UNLV, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota and Indiana games). He showed the ability to locate targets and drop his weight when executing longer pulls and his body control allows him to adjust to counter moves and make contact in the open field.

EXPLOSION/POP… Center/Guard Position…When Cole keeps his hands inside his frame, he generates a powerful punch. He has very good hip explosion to be highly effective for the running game in moves into the second level. He latches on to a defender with strong hands to control and knows how to maintain balance when trying to pop and slide at the point of contact to sustain his blocks. He simply gets on his opponent in an instant, giving his man no time to set up or execute counter moves (used to be an issue in 2014). He plays with very good functional strength and has outstanding foot quickness to explode into the defender when making contact. With his hip explosion, he is a perfect fit for an inside running game. He does a solid job of rolling his hips and driving defenders working along the line, as he shows good urgency to get into the defender immediately after the snap and plays with above average strength.

Tackle Position…Cole combines his size, strength, body mass and long wingspan to generate very good explosion behind his blocks. He is also an explosive hip roller, playing with properly bent knees that he uses well, along with his strength to push and wall off his man. When he extends his arms and executes his hand punch, his upper body power will see him jolt and control the defender. He will sometimes over-extend and try to maul the opponent, but shows good pop driving into the defender on running plays. He demonstrates good hand usage and above average strength to shock and jolt, but will have to add more bulk to maintain that consistency at the next level. He accelerates quickly coming off the ball and his low pad level lets him get underneath the defender to sustain. He is a very good positional mover who can maul. He uses his hands with force, delivering a solid punch to stymie the bull rush and simply knocks people off balance with his explosion off the snap. He is not the type who will lean and shove, preferring to attack and grind it out until the whistle. His lower body flexibility is superb and he drives off the ball with good urgency. When he makes contact, he hits with thud and good pop. His 2014/15 off-season work in the weight room was evident by the power and violence behind his punch. He has that upper body power to jolt defenders and with his strong hands (and confidence in them), he did a really nice job of locking on and controlling his opponent until the whistle.

As you can see from his hand placement, Cole might be young, but he's a savvy drive blocker who knows how to get his mitts on a defender to stall the opponent in the rush lane

RUN BLOCKING…Center/Guard Position…This is the major reason the team moved their best run blocker inside – generate a rush lane and maintain its integrity, two items Cole is more than up to the task to do. During spring drills, he demonstrated the ability to be very strong at the point of attack. He displayed a very good understanding for angles and leverage that a center needs to execute, sliding his feet well on scoop and kick-out blocks. He has the ability to sink his pads and open his hips while maintaining the strong base needed to get movement off the line. Once he locks on to an opponent, he has no problem driving his man out. He has nice road-grading skills with his base blocks when trying to remove first level defenders and good strength in his shoulders to widen and maintain the inside rush lanes. He is a productive blocker inline from his days on the edge, whose balance and leverage allows him to quickly get in the way of a defender. Even when he has to stand up and face up to the larger defensive tackle, he has the hand punch and placement to quickly neutralize his man and maintain the rush lane. When he stays at a low pad level and delivers his strong hand punch, he will consistently gain leverage. He’s had very good success in attempts to get movement vs. the bigger defenders, as he uses his hand placement and base to maintain position and sustain. He gets a very good surge and movement coming off the line and displays excellent balance and feet working into the second level. He is savvy enough to know when he can get under the defender’s pads, doing a nice job of sliding his feet to maintain leverage.

Tackle Position…Cole comes off the snap with a hard surge and good leg drive, possessing the feet to stay on his blocks and sustain. He is a good upper body blocker who shuffles his feet well. As a zone blocker, he has more than enough strength to move out level-one defenders. Once he gains position off the snap, he has the strength to wall off. He has a good concept for taking proper angles to cut off second level opponents and shows outstanding ability leading on long pulls. He is still more comfortable working in space, as he shows better explosion getting out to search and neutralize linebackers, but has the leg drive and lateral movement to be quite effective maintaining rush lane integrity. In 2015 (see BYU, Rutgers and Florida games), he showed very good hand usage in attempts to scope, sustain and make reach blocks. He plays on his feet and battles throughout the play. He gets very good hip roll, which lets him be more physical and aggressive coming off the snap. He sets his base a little high at times when blocking in-line, but generally does a solid job of using his size to maul and take over on blocks. If he locks on to a defender, he will generally win the battle. He can drive with good initial force, but is best when accelerating to get to the second level. Last season, Cole was very good at using his quickness to explode off the snap. He has the power to deliver pop on contact and the leg drive to generate movement. He adjusts well on the move and is that rare blocker with the speed to pull and reach the second level. He also showed the ability to take angles when blocking down field.

Cole works hard to maintain his position and when he keeps his hands inside the framework, few defenders can mount a charge into the backfield


PASS BLOCKING…Center/Guard Position…With his size and power, it is safe to say that Cole will not have any problems protecting the quarterback, even with a defender lined up over his head. He shows a very strong pass set and good balance, along with the athletic agility to recover when beaten, along with the solid anchor to maintain position at the point of attack. He also has excellent vision, evident by the plays he has made when the quarterback has a turnover. Cole does a nice job of keeping his weight back, staying square so he can slide and adjust to change of direction. He can anchor vs. the bull rush and shows great alertness to tricks. The thing you notice on spring film is his good feet and lateral agility. He can slide and mirror defenders, using his hand placement to defeat swim moves. He shows a good base set to pop and drop, quick hand usage upon initial contact and tenacity in his play. He plays flat-footed with good knee bend to deliver the full force behind his hand jolt.

Tackle Position…While Cole is aggressive, he does have some issues with counter moves, and needs to use his foot quickness to stay in front of the speedy edge rushers. He will shuffle his feet and slide back with ease when taking on edge rushers on the short side of the field, thanks to staying square and balanced while keeping his pad level low. However, when he gets over-extended, he does not generate a strong anchor, despite having good field vision to recover vs. double moves. He is quick to pivot in attempts to counter the speed rush, as he shows good urgency getting to his reach point. He uses his long arms effectively in attempts to extend and lock on to the defender’s jersey. He has the speed to mirror and square up with an opponent, as his strong anchor lets him maintain position when trying to neutralize the pass rush charge, but despite those flashes of good traits, there are moments when he gets too comfortable with his edge blocking and will revert to dropping his head some (see 2015 Maryland, Northwestern games). With his lateral quickness, he should have no problems when trying to slide and readjust. Cole plays with good awareness and has the flexibility along with functional lower body strength to anchor. He has the active feet and balance in his kick slide, along with the long arms to simply engulf edge rushers, but must improve some footwork lapses when working in-line, as he can have some lapses when he sets up too wide.

PULLING/TRAPPING …Center/Guard Position…If the coaches do decide to move Cole to center permanently in 2015, he could be quite effective angling and stalking second level defenders. He has the flexibility and balance to snap and lead the charge on screens, showing good knee bend to strike in space and the hand placement to sustain after contact. He plays on his feet and is one of those powerful centers with an above average base. He is very light with his feet to pull and run down the line of scrimmage and is a highly effective combo blocker, showing that rare ability to pop a defender at the first level and then use his agility to execute a crunching second level block. He comes out of his stance with good balance, especially excelling when he impacts on the edge in attempts to turn and seal.

Tackle Position…Cole’s quickness suggests that the coaching staff would be better off find more ways to using him on pulls as an interior blocker. He is an athletic blocker who is smooth in his movement getting into the second level. He has the body control to execute blocks in space and plays with a strong base that makes it very difficult for the defender to get him off his feet. His quickness coming out of his stance and outstanding body control allows him to make fluid adjustments working in space, making him an ideal lead blocker on long pulls and playing down field. There is great ease of movement in his hips when changing direction. He has more than enough balance to stay on his feet on the move. He adjusts well to pick up stunts when working in-line and shows very good explosiveness to get out and make plays in space (will have some lapses vs. counter moves, at times, though). His change of direction agility lets him make good contact on the move, especially when he attempts to neutralize linebackers.

ADJUST ON THE LINEBACKER DOWNFIELD…Center/Guard Position…If Cole can match or better his nine second level blocks in 2015 this season, that would be a nice total for a pivot blocker. He has more than enough strength to lock on, along with the nimble feet to mirror the linebackers. You can see he uses his body control with effectiveness when bumping two-tech types and the ability to climb with flexibility and balance when striking in space. He is also agile enough to slide his feet to sustain when walling off. When he locates his target, he excels at staying on the defender and making the cut-off.

Tackle Position…Cole is capable of getting on top of the linebackers, as he will use his long arms to engulf and his strength to pancake them in the open. He has good hip swerve that he uses to adjust and make contact when delivering open field blocks. He has the balance and foot speed to get in front of the charge on pulls and roll-outs, taking proper angles to get into the second level. He is always looking for linebackers to attack. He shows great ease of movement in space and has the body control and base to get position and keep it. He takes proper angles to cut off and when he wheels on the linebacker, he will quickly neutralize the opponent. He is very alert when working in space and likes to use his hands with force to shock and jolt. In 2015, Cole did a nice job of adjusting his feet on the move and it was rare to see him fall off his blocks or be on the ground (see 2015 UNLV, BYU and Minnesota games). He demonstrates proper knee bend and balance to bump off the defensive end when used on the stretch play and also is effective climbing the wall to attack the linebackers when working in-line.

While he won't take away Roberto Duran's title (hands of steel), Cole's hand punch helped him record 85 knockdowns in the trenches last season



USE OF HANDS/PUNCH…Center/Guard Position…Cole showed during spring scrimmages that he can punch donuts into a chest of a defender when his opponent gets too high in his stance. He has very quick hand placement to control the defender on running plays and is a strong puncher in pass protection. He is also savvy enough to know when to extend for lock-on and steering purposes in the aerial game. He shows an explosive and forceful hand punch on the rise. He plays with leverage and can immediately get control of the defender with his proper hand placement, effectively grabbing and gaining control.

Tackle Position…Cole has the hand strength to stun and control defenders with his hand punch, but needs to develop better technique in getting underneath the defender and reacting to counter moves (see 2015 Northwestern and Maryland games). He has made good strides using his hands to lock on and grab. He has the long arms to pressure and keep rush ends at bay, using his strength and pop on contact to jolt and control the opponent, but will lose some sustain ability when a defender gets a good push off his inside shoulder. When he attacks a defender with his hand punch, he will generally neutralize him. He will get a little reckless at times and take long arm swipes, causing the defender to slip off his blocks, but shows enough redirection agility to recover. He has made good improvement in resetting his hands, getting proper separation when doing so. He is more of a punch-&-shock type, but is also learning how to use his hands better to control. He has that natural upper body strength and violent hand punch to jolt the defender and, but as a tackle, he has some lapses keeping his hands inside to control his man when setting up in pass protection.

REACTIONS/AWARENESS…Center/Guard Position…Cole knows when to move his feet, slide his hips and maintain a solid base. He is alert and quick to secure position vs. twists and games, as he has the nimble feet to mirror. For a center, he does a nice job of getting out on the edge to impact a defensive end, thanks to his body control and balance when sliding. He has great field vision, doing a nice job with his feet to adjust with his lateral kick and slide. He is alert to movement and change of direction along the line and reacts well to stunts and twists. The coaches call him the “complete package” at center, with great intelligence and technique, tremendous vision and a terrific sense of his surroundings. He plays through the whistle on every down and is a team-first player who should hold the key to the Wolverines’ blocking schemes. He consistently plays flat-footed, doing a nice job of adjusting to schemes, as he has that instinctive feel for the flow of the play.

Tackle Position…Cole is a quick-footed athlete who is quick to recover when caught out of position and shows good urgency and vision to handle twists and games, but must keep his hands in better position vs. counter moves. He is very natural reacting and executing blocks on the move. His foot speed lets him get to his reach point and cut off edge rushers (except when they get a bead on his inside shoulder) and he displays good body control when readjusting to movement. He does a good job of shuffling his feet. When he gets too tall in his stance, he can get caught out of position (will lunge and fail to recover), but when he stays square, he maintains good balance. He does a nice job of picking up stunts and blitzes with his balance and foot speed. He just needs to demonstrate better ability to slide and readjust when working off the edge vs. defenders with highly active hands. He could use a bit of refinement shuffling his feet to react quicker to the blitz, but even when he overextends, he showed the balance to move his feet to get into position to protect the pocket in pass protection. He still needs to “see the big picture” quicker playing on an island, but he does a good job of recovering and holding his ground.

Ohio State's Nick Mangold was a first round selection by the New York Jets in 2006. He's a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and in 2011, the New York Times ranked him as the best center in the NFL. The Jets were "the only team in the NFL that doesn't have to sacrifice a guard when facing an elite nose tackle," wrote the Times, because of Mangold's "ability to lock and drive from a standstill position."


COMPARES TO…NICK MANGOLD-New York Jets…If the Wolverines leave Cole in the pivot, he could be a dominant force. Like Mangold, he is a tenacious, aggressive, yet smart and instinctive blocker. He might not have the 330-pound frame some teams look for in the pivot, but few centers in this game have the foot quickness, balance and change of direction agility he possesses. His hand punch consistently keeps his defenders off-balance and has that raw strength needed to leverage and sustain, but moving him in-line should eliminate some issues he had vs. counter moves during one-on-one battles on an island. He takes sound angles blocking for the running game and has no problems resetting his feet to absorb the bull rush. He plays with classic “warrior” nastiness, but also has the quickness to easily gain advantage on a slower defensive lineman.

CAREER NOTES…Cole enters his junior season projected to start at center…He is the first offensive lineman in school history to debut for the Wolverines as a starter and he enters the 2016 schedule boasting a consecutive starting string of twenty-five contests.

CAREER NOTES...Cole became the first offensive lineman in school history to debut for the Wolverines as a starter and he currently boasts a consecutive starting string of thirty-one contests…In his last nineteen games (start of 2015), Cole has registered an 89.84% blocking consistency grade, posting 158 knockdowns, 46 touchdown-resulting blocks and twenty blocks down field.

THE MICHIGAN ALL-AMERICAN HISTORY AT THE CENTER POSITION

Legendary coaches, Paul Brown and Chuck Noll, felt that in order to build a solid organization, you need to have a dominant, attacking-mode like center, a man in the pivot that is not only savvy enough to teach others the “tricks of the trade” but to also be alert to their surroundings, especially when it comes to protecting the pocket.

Perhaps it is fitting that the University of Michigan’s first ever All-American happened to play the center position. In fact, to date, there have been fifteen times that a center from the university was selected for that prestigious honor. The first was William Cunningham in 1898, followed by Germany Schultz (1907), Henry Vick (1921), Jack Blott (1923), Robert Brown (1925) and Maynard Morrison (1931). They were joined by the only U-M two-time winner, Charles Bernard (1932-33), but it was not until 1977 (Walt Downing) that the next Michigan center would be selected to the national squad.

The Lloyd Carr era also saw centers George Lilja (1980), Tom Dixon (1983) and John Vitale (1988) receive All-American accolades. Rod Payne joined that postseason list in 1996 and David Baas was a 2004 selection. The last center to receive such honors was David Molk in 2011. Of this crop of pivot performers, Germany Schulz (1951) and ernie Vick (1983) were selected to the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame.

2016 SEASON...Despite having never played the position at the collegiate level, Cole is rated the best center in the college ranks by The NFL Draft Report, as he was also selected to that scouting information service’s preseason All-American and All-Big Ten Conference teams…Once considered a “dark-horse” favorite to capture the Rimington Trophy, given annually to college football’s top performer at center, Cole quickly established himself as a dominant force on the front wall, evident by the tremendous success by the Wolverines offense through their first six games…Despite two position changes on the offensive line, the front wall has allowed just nine sacks and thirteen quarterback pressures through the first six games on the schedule…The 2015 team averaged 29.5 points through their first six games, but this unit is averaging 50.0 points…The 2015 team averaged 201.33 yards per game on the ground, compiling fifteen touchdowns during their first six appearances while the current squad is averaging 255.0 yards per game and has reached the end zone twenty-five times… Last season, through the first six contests, Michigan averaged 189.17 aerial yards per game, as they completed 60.06% of their throws (106-of-175) with five touchdowns and six interceptions. The 2016 version is averaging 215.0 yards passing while accounting for twelve touchdowns…Among current major college centers, Cole’s average of 12.17 key blocks/knockdowns per game leads the nation…Through six games, the junior has delivered a total of 73 key blocks/knockdowns that include fourteen touchdown-resulting blocks for the ground game, four more for the aerial attack and eleven second level blocks, giving him a blocking consistency grade of 96.33%, tops for any blocker in the Big Ten Conference and the leading figure for any interior blocker (guard, center) in the collegiate ranks.

COLE 2016 SEASON GAME ANALYSIS

Hawaii…The Wolverines’ 60-point margin of victory was the program's largest since 1975, as the offense encountered little trouble in its 2016 opener, dispatching Hawaii, 63-3 to mark the program's largest margin of victory in any game since 1975…In his first contest at center, Cole delivered thirteen key blocks/knockdowns while paving the way for a running unit that amassed 306 of the team’s total of 512 yards…Wilton Speight got the start at quarterback and overcame a turnover on the first play of the season to have a solid season debut, completing 10-of-13 attempts for 145 yards and three touchdowns…Behind Cole’s block-assignment calling, the front wall helped freshman Chris Evans turn heads in his first game, carrying eight times for 112 yards and a pair of scores. He is the third true freshman running back to eclipse 100 rushing yards in his collegiate debut, joining Chris Perry (2000) and Walter Cross (1998)…Speight’s 12-yard touchdown toss to Grant Perry was set up earlier in that 11-play, 98-yard march, as Cole fired off the snap to deliver a fold block on defensive tackle Kory Rasmussen, clearing an inside rush lane used by receiver Jehu Chesson for a 15-yard gain on an end-around snap…Cole pulled to the right side of the field as Chris Evans follo0wed before the tailback cut back inside to pick up 21 yards on a carry. The drive ended two plays later, as Speight found Amara Darboh with a 5-yard scoring lob…In what first appeared to be a 2-to-3-yard loss on a carry by Chris Evans, it turned into a 9-yard first down, as Cole alertly retreated into the backfield to prevent weak-side linebacker Russell Williams from capturing the tailback before Evans to redirect to the left side. A fly-sweep by Eddie McDoom around his center tacked on fifteen more yards during that second quarter series, getting the ball into the red zone, where Evans’ number was then called. The ball carrier took the handoff and on a power sweep to the left side, he trailed behind as Cole locked up defensive end Samiuela Akoteu, safety Trayvon Henderson and linebacker Russell Williams before Evans dove for the left pylon and an 18-yard touchdown… Coming out of his stance, Cole simply mowed down defensive tackle Zeno Choi, creating a huge rush lane that Evans instantly spotted, turning on the burners to race 43 yards up the middle of the field for a touchdown to begin second half action…Late in the third quarter, Cole and the rest of the first unit were replaced, but reserve quarterback John O'Korn, but it did not slow the offense down any. He put together a 10-play, 74-yard drive that ended with a four-yard touchdown run from full-back Khalid Hill…Primary Blocking Assignment-DT#75-Kory Rasmussen (6:02-297)-One assisted tackle; DT#99-Zeno Choi (6:03-266)-No tackles; WOLB#44-Russell Williams (6:01-233)-No tackles…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded thirteen key blocks/knockdowns and two touchdown-resulting blocks, grading 99% for blocking consistency...Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 17-of-20 passes (85.00%) for 206 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, rushing for 306 yards and four touchdowns on 39 carries (7.85 ypc), as they gained 512 yards on a total of 59 plays (8.68 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed no sacks, four stops for losses totaling nine yards and no quarterback pressures, as no tackles-for-loss were charged to their starting center.

Central Florida…Cole’s excellence was evident as the Michigan offense finished the game having not committed a penalty in 141 plays over the first two games of the season. During the first two contests on the 2015 schedule, Michigan had amassed thirteen penalties for 140 yards in losses. The new starting center delivered a dozen key blocks for the afternoon, as quarterback Wilton Speight threw for 312 yards and four touchdowns, two each to Jake Butt and Amara Darboh…When Jamiyus Pittman exploded off the snap, intent on attacking the Wolverines quarterback before he could scan the field on a third-&-goal play, Cole simply used his “big mitts” to lock on to the nose guard and drive the Knights defender to the ground. Speight then had time to locate tight end Jake Butt near the right corner of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown to begin the game’s scoring action…The center changed the blocking assignments near the goal line and angled over after the snap to neutralize defensive end Joey Conners who was stunting in-line. The center shoved the opponent to the ground and charged forward into the end zone as fullback Khalid Hill would follow for a 3-yard touchdown near the end of the opening frame…Cole again spotted a stunt by Pittman and followed the nose guard along the line before flattening his opponent and turning up field to clear room in the second level for a 16-yard run by Eddie McDoom to the UCF 9-yard marker late in the first quarter. That drive would stall during the early moments of the second stanza, as Michigan would settle for a 24-yard field goal to increase their lead to 24-0 with just 44 minutes to play…After protecting Speight on three pass completions that totaled 60 yards, the ball was nestled at the UCF 1-yard line. Fullback Khalid Hill would get the call and he took off behind Cole, who blasted two defenders off the line of scrimmage before giving one last emphatic hand shove that rocked defensive end Trysten Hill back on his heels during that 1-yard touchdown run…Primary Blocking Assignment-NG#5-Jamiyus Pittman (6:00-2990-No tackles; DE#91-Trysten Hill (6:01-260)-One solo tackle; DE#91-Joey Conners (6:01-288)-No tackles…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded twelve key blocks/knockdowns with two touchdown-resulting blocks for the ground game and another for the passing attack, as he posted two down field blocks and graded 98% for blocking consistency...Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 27-of-41 passes (65.85%) for 328 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, rushing for 119 yards and two touchdowns on 41 carries (2.90 ypc), as they gained 447 yards on a total of 82 plays (5.45 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed two sacks for minus 12 yards, eight stops for losses totaling 34 yards and three quarterback pressures, as no tackles-for-loss were charged to their starting center.

Colorado…Michigan trailed 14-0 and 21-7 in the first quarter but outscored Colorado, 38-7, thereafter. The Buffs scored first and then capitalized on a fumble they recovered after Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight was blindsided on a hit coming over his right tackle, as Colorado scooped up the ball for another touchdown. Cole delivered eight knockdowns in a fierce battle with massive 333-pound nose guard Josh Tupou…Cole and his front wall cleared out the right side of the Buffs’ defensive line as Wilton Speight connected with Jake Butt on a 21-yard catch that the tight end downed at the Colorado 17. From there, receiver Jehu Chesson took the ball on the reverse, cutting to the left side of the field for the final 17 yards into the end zone…Faster than a NASA rocket, there was Cole flying into the second level as flanker Amara Darboh took a short pass and cut back to the left side of the field. After Cole had stalked weak-side linebacker Cameron Brown, he spun around and flattened middle linebacker Brandon Smith, also causing safety Nick Scott to join the pile, as Darboh raced by for a 45-yard catch-&-run touchdown just before halftime…On a toss play to De’Veon Smith, Cole reached into the second level, taking down inside linebacker Kenneth Olugbode to spring the tailback for a 42-yard scamper down the left sidelines for a touchdown to begin second half action…Cole baited Tupou to jump offside and the penalty would spark a 10-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a toss play to Ty Isaac for a 1-yard touchdown near the end of the third frame… Topou was credited with an assisted sack of Speight, but it was actually backside pressure from linebacker Jimmie Gilbert that sealed the deal, with Topou merely reaching his hand out to lend support after Speight hit the ground…Michigan combined for 159 total points over its first three games of the 2016 season -- the most over that stretch in program history. The Wolverines surpassed 100 or more points in the first three games of the season on 12 occasions since 1892… Michigan's two-touchdown comeback against Colorado represents the 14th time that U-M has overcome a deficit of 14 points or more -- and the first since rallying from a similar 21-7 deficit at Connecticut in 2013. Michigan's largest comeback victory followed a 21-point hole at Minnesota in 2003…Primary Blocking Assignment-NG#58-Josh Topou (6:03-333)-One assisted sack for a 2-yard loss…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded eight key blocks/knockdowns with two touch-down-resulting blocks for the ground game and another for the passing attack, posting a pair of blocks down field while grading 96% for blocking consistency... Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 16-of-30 passes (53.33%) for 229 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, rushing for 168 yards and three touchdowns on 41 carries (4.10 ypc), as they gained 397 yards on a total of 82 plays (4.84 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed three sacks for minus 22 yards, six stops for losses totaling 33 yards and no quarterback pressures, as just an assisted tackle-for-loss was charged to their starting center.

Penn State…Behind a highly impressive fourteen key blocks/ knockdowns from their new center, the Wolverines outgained Penn State, 515-199, and jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead, keeping the Nittany Lions to only 50 total yards in the first half. Five different Michigan players recorded rushing touchdowns: De'Veon Smith, Karan Higdon, Ty Isaac, Chris Evans and Khalid Hill. Together, U-M ran for 326 yards, averaging 6.7 yards per carry…After tripping up Parker Cothren on a third-&-3 pass completion from Wilton Speight to Khalid Hill for a 15-yard first down, Michigan faced fourth-&-goal during their game-opening 7-play drive. A handoff to Hill saw the fullback barrel over Cole, as the center simply crushed the Penn State defensive tackle (Cothren) into the ground with a little over six minutes into the contest…Teaming with left guard Ben Braden, Cole and his fellow line mate attacked Kevin Givens, driving the defensive tackle into a pair of linebackers to pave the way for a 2-yard touchdown run by De’Veon Smith during the team’s next possession…After Penn State middle linebacker Brandon Smith was ejected from the game for targeting, Cole “introduced” his replacement to the game. Speight dropped back to pass and his pump fake baited Jan Johnson to attack the line of scrimmage, where he was met and neutralized by Cole. That left a gaping hole in the middle of the end zone, where Johnson’s coverage assignment, tight end Devin Asiasi, pulled down the lob from his quarterback for a 3-yard touchdown early in the second quarter…Two deep pass completions by Speight had the team first-&-goal at the Penn State 2-yard line just before halftime. With Karan Higdon getting the call, the tailback went behind his center, as Cole took down defensive end Evan Schwan with a log block to conclude that 80-yard, 13-play march…Michigan has combined for 208 total points over its first four games of the 2016 season -- the most over that stretch in program history…The last time Michigan scored 40 or more points in each of its first four games was 1947 -- Michigan State (55-0), Stanford (49-13), Pittsburgh (69-0) and Northwestern (49-21)…U-M posted four 40-plus games over the last two seasons combined -- a span of 25 games. The Wolverines boast four through four games this year…Primary Blocking Assignment-DT#30-Kevin Givens (6:01-278)-Two solo tackles; DT#41-Parker Cothren (6:04-297)-No tackles; DE#94-Evan Schwan (6:06-263)-No tackles…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded fourteen key blocks/ knockdowns with three touchdown-resulting blocks for the ground game and another for the passing attack, posting one block down field while grading 96% for blocking consistency...Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 21-of-35 passes (60.00%) for 189 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, rushing for 326 yards and six touchdowns on 49 carries (6.65 ypc), as they gained 515 yards on a total of 84 plays (6.13 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed no sacks, five stops for losses totaling 10 yards and four quarterback pressures, as no tackles-for-loss were charged to their starting center.

Wisconsin…Cole did not reach his customary double-digit knockdown figure, but he did more than enough to neutralize the Badgers front wall as the 14-7 score marked Michigan's first win over a top-10 opponent since September 2008 (27-25 over Wisconsin). Amara Darboh caught the go-ahead touchdown with 7:56 left and Jourdan Lewis made an acrobatic, one-handed interception with 2:23 left to seal the game. The Wolverines led Wisconsin in total yards (349-159), first downs (21-8) and time of possession (35:41-24:19)…After gaining 108 yards with six first downs during first quarter action, the Wolverines mounted an 11-play, 77-yard drive to begin the second stanza. On first-&-goal, Khalid Hill was called upon and the fullback powered his way into the end zone from a yard out, with Cole leading the charge. The center fired low off the snap, leaving both linebacker Garret Dooley and nose tackle Olive Sagapolu to only sit back and observe as six points went up on the scoreboard…Primary Blocking Assignment-NG#65-Olive Sagapolo (6:03-344)-Three tackles (2 solos); NG#93-Garrett Rand (6:02-274)-No tackles…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded nine key blocks/ knock-downs with one touchdown-resulting block for the ground game and two blocks in the second level, grading 90% for blocking consistency... Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 20-of-32 passes (62.50%) for 219 yards, one touchdown and one interception, rushing for 130 yards and one touchdown on 44 carries (2.95 ypc), as they gained 349 yards on a total of 76 plays (4.59 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed four sacks for minus 32 yards, six stops for losses totaling 35 yards and three quarterback pressures, as no tackles-for-loss were charged to their starting center.

Rutgers…In the program's third-largest margin of victory in program history, Cole registered an amazing seventeen knockdowns/key blocks, even though the first unit was off the field by the mid stages of the third quarter in this 78-0 romp. Offensively, Michigan ran for 481 yards (Chris Evans had a team-high 153) and nine touchdowns, averaging 8.6 yards per attempt. Behind an offense that generated nearly 500 rushing yards and a defense that held the opposition to just two first downs, Michigan smashed Rutgers as the Wolverines got whatever it wanted in the running game…The Wolverines’ 78-point margin of victory is the largest in Big Ten history, for any conference game, topping Wisconsin's 83-20 victory over Indiana in 2010 and Ohio State's 59-0 victory over Wisconsin in the conference title game in 2014…Six different players scored touchdowns for U-M during tonight's game: Khalid Hill (three), Jehu Chesson, Karan Higdon (two), Jabrill Peppers (two), Ty Isaac (two) and Bobby Henderson. Three quarterbacks saw game action for U-M tonight: Wilton Speight, John O'Korn and Shane Morris, in addition to Peppers getting ample carries from direct snaps under center…After delivering a glancing block on defensive tackle Darius Hamilton, Cole fired out into the second level to stalk strong safety Anthony Cioffi while creating a crease used by Jabrill Peppers on a direct snap from his center for a 63-yard scamper to the Rutgers 4-yard line. That set up first-&-goal for Ty Isaac and the tailback delivered on a 4-yard run for a score…From there, the rout was on. Peppers appeared to run a punt back for a touchdown after the ensuing Rutgers possession, but it was called back due to a penalty. The offense regrouped and executed, though, as Jehu Chesson ended that drive with a diving catch in the end zone for six. Cole opened an inside hole for Isaac to run for 12 yards, setting up a pass play from Wilton Speight to Chesson for a 30-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead after the game’s first ten minutes…Tailback Chis Evans used a devastating second level block by Cole that took out Cioffi and cornerback Isaiah Wharton while the tailback followed his center up the middle for a 43-yard gain to the Rutgers 1-yard line. Khalid Hill was then called upon to get the final yard and touchdown early in the second quarter…On fourth-&-goal, Cole took the legs out from under defensive tackle Darius Hamilton with a fold block and Hill would again score on a 1-yard plunge over his center to stake Michigan to a 36-0 lead with 7:18 left in the first half…The first unit would observe most of the second half action from the sidelines…Primary Blocking Assignment-NG#51-Sebastian Joseph (6:04-302)-One solo tackle; DT#91-Darius Hamilton (6:03-286)-No tackles…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded a career-high seventeen key blocks/knockdowns with four touchdown-resulting blocks for the ground game and another for the passing attack, posting three down field blocks while grading 99% for blocking consistency...Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 8-of-16 passes (50.00%) for 119 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, rushing for 481 yards and nine touchdowns on 56 carries (8.59 ypc), as they gained 600 yards on a total of 72 plays (8.33 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed no sacks, three stops for losses totaling seven yards and three quarterback pressures, as no tackles-for-loss were charged to their starting center.

2015 SEASON...Cole earned All-Big Ten Conference second-team accolades from The NFL Draft Report and garnered honorable mention in that same category from the league’s coaches and media…He extended his consecutive starting string to twenty-five games, as the left tackle also saw several snaps of action on the right side…While the Wolverines struggled to establish their ground game, they did manage to average 395.92 yards per game in total offense, including an average of 237.69 aerial yards…The left tackle registered a blocking consistency grade of 86.85%, recording marks of 90% or better seven appearances, including five in his final six contests…Produced 85 key blocks/ knock-downs, including touchdown-resulting blocks on 21-of-27 scoring runs and eight more for a passing attack that reached the end zone 21 times…Added nine down field blocks and also recovered a fumble to keep a drive alive vs. Ohio State…The offense line struggled early in the season, but the front unit allowed only eighteen quarterback sacks and fourteen pressures through thirteen games, a marked improvement from the 2014 offensive line that yielded 25 sacks and 25 hurries in twelve games…Cole was flagged three times, including one clipping penalty (UNLV) and one personal foul (Ohio State), but held his blocking assignments to 4.5 sacks, 6.5 stops for losses of 28 yards and two quarterback pressures on 415 pass plays…By coming up with key blocks responsible for 77.78% of the team’s touchdown runs, that was the highest percentage for any Big Ten performer at the demanding left tackle position (Michigan State’s Jack Conklin was second, posting a 70% rate 14-of-20 touchdowns, in games played).

2015 SEASON GAME ANALYSIS

Utah…The University of Michigan football team opened up the 2015 season by playing its first-ever game in the state of Utah in front of a record crowd, but they came up short, 24-17, against the host Utes inside Rice-Eccles Stadium.. While new starting quarterback, Iowa graduate transfer Jake Rudock stayed on his feet all night, as the U-M offensive line did not surrender a single sack during the contest, he was also intercepted three times and could not get in rhythm with his impressive array of wide receivers.

Oregon State…Michigan scored 35 unanswered points to defeat Oregon State, 35-7, during the home coaching debut of Jim Harbaugh at Michigan Stadium…With their left tackle delivering seven knockdowns and two touchdown-resulting blocks, tailback De'Veon Smith had a career day on the ground with 23 carries for 126 yards and three touchdowns…Cole crushed strong-side linebacker David Henry to clear a rush lane used by Smith for a 10-yard gain. The left tackle then executed a reach block that drove defensive end Titus Failauga away from the pocket, giving quarterback Jake Ruddock time to complete a fourth-&-5 pass to Smith for 20 yards before he was tackled inside the OSU 10-yard marker. That would set up the ball carrier’s 1-yard scoring run around the right side of the line to complete a 69-yard, 12-play second quarter series…Cole continued to wear down the Beavers defensive front, twice pushing his assignment, Titus Failauga at least five yards off the line, which led to gains of 12- and seven yards by Smith late in the third quarter. The drive would continue as fourth quarter action began and on a second-&-4 snap, Cole and his left guard drove low out of their pads to stall the Oregon State defenders long enough for Smith to cut back inside for an 8-yard touchdown run that staked the Wolverines to a 28-7 lead…On a 12-yard run by Derrick Green, Cole fired off the snap to take down Failauga before playing off that block to stalk strong safety Brandon Arnold while the tailback slashed past the two players for a first down. That would spark a 14-play, 73-yard drive that Cole would finish by delivering a scramble block, blasting into the pile to drive middle linebacker Rommel Mageo clear into the end zone, with Green ending that march via a 2-yard scoring burst behind his left tackle…Primary Blocking Assignment-DE#93-Titus Failauga (6:03-258)-Four tackles (2 solos), one stop for a 1-yard loss; DE#95-Baker Pritchard (6:03-257)-No tackles, one forced fumble…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded seven key blocks/ knockdowns and two touchdown-resulting blocks, grading 86% for blocking consistency...Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 18-of-26 passes (69.23%) for 180 yards, no touchdowns and one interception, rushing for 225 yards and four touchdowns on 48 carries (4.69 ypc), as they gained 405 yards on a total of 74 plays (5.47 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed one sack for minus 17 yards, three stops for losses totaling 21 yards and no quarterback pressures, as one tackle-for-loss was charged to their left tackle.

Nevada-Las Vegas…For the second consecutive game, the University of Michigan football team used a strong rushing attack (254 yards, three touchdowns) and a stout defense to race past UNLV, 28-7, inside Michigan Stadium. Cole made up for a clipping penalty with key blocks on three touchdown drives and USC transfer tailback, Ty Isaac led the ground game, totaling 114 yards on eight carries, including a 76-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that was the result of a bone-jarring block delivered by the Wolverines left tackle…Tailback De’Veon Smith scored on a 5-yard lob from quarterback Jake Ruddock towards the right side of the end zone, but it was Cole using his “big mitts” to attack the inside shoulder of Sonny Sanitoa to ride the defensive end away from the pocket that allowed the pass to be completed for the first points on the board for the day with just six minutes into the contest…Michigan resorted to a little misdirection for its second touchdown. One play after a reverse by Darboh netted four yards, Rudock handed off to senior wide receiver Jehu Chesson on a jet sweep, and he took it 36 yards down the sideline for six. On the quick pitch to Darboh in the backfield, Cole pulled to the right side of the field, taking down defensive tackle Dominic Baldwin as the Michigan receiver took the reverse to the UNLV 36. On the next snap, Michigan again went to a receiver as a ball carrier, with Chesson taking the ball around his left tackle, as Cole shoved Sanitoa into linebacker Ryan McAleenan to give the 6:03 flanker clear sailing into the end zone for a 14-0 lead at the start of the second quarter…While the Wolverines did not establish their running game by using their tailbacks in 2015, perhaps they might look into giving their wide receivers more opportunities to tote the sphere out of the backfield. For the third time vs. the Rebels, it was a Michigan wide-out who made a big play on a rushing attempt. USC transfer Ty Isaac’s U-M debut saw him take a pitchout and fly through the crease that Cole created by flattening two UNLV defenders, racing down the left sidelines for a 76-yard touchdown to end a 4-play, 90-yard march, midway through the second stanza. For the afternoon, the Wolverines tallied 254 yards with three scores on 39 carries, as their receivers generated 154 yards and two of those touchdowns on ten attempts…Primary Blocking Assignment-DE#93-Sonny Sanitoa (6:03-266)-Two solo tackles; DT#68-Tuli Fakauho (6:01-330)-No tackles…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded six key blocks/knockdowns, three touchdown-resulting blocks (two on running plays) and one block down field, but was penalized once (clipping), grading 93% for blocking consistency...Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 14-of-25 passes (56.00%) for 123 yards, one touchdown and one interception, rushing for 254 yards and three touchdowns on 39 carries (6.51 ypc), as they gained 377 yards on a total of 64 plays (5.89 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed no sacks, two stops for losses totaling four yards and no quarterback pressures, but none were charged to their left tackle.

Brigham Young…Cole made his presence known from the first snap, finishing with seven knockdowns while paving the way on a very impressive four touchdown drives. Yes, a dominating Michigan defensive performance helped the team win its third consecutive game, trampling then 22nd-ranked BYU, 31-0, inside Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines manhandled the visitors from the get-go, tabulating all their points on five consecutive drives in the first half while allowing only 105 total yards and eight first downs. Among the offensive standouts was junior running back De'Veon Smith, who ran 16 times for 125 yards and a touchdown before leaving midway through the third quarter due to an ankle injury. At halftime, Smith nearly had twice as many rushing yards (117) as BYU had in total yards (62). Graduate student quarterback Jake Rudock was 14-of-25 for 194 yards and a passing touchdown -- completing passes to nine different receivers -- while also adding two rushing touchdowns…On Michigan’s second play during their second possession of the game, Cole kept his pads low to fire into defensive end Bronson Kaufusi, creating a crease that De’Veon slashed through to turn on the burners along the left sideline for a 31-yard gain. The BYU defender would be neutralized all day by the Michigan left tackle, as he held the Cougar to a lone assisted tackle (defender made another stop at the opposite end of the field). Kaufusi finished the 2014 season as BYU’s leader with seven sacks, 11.5 stops-for-loss and seven quarterback pressures and he would record eleven sacks and twenty tackles behind the line of scrimmage before the 2015 schedule concluded, but on this day, it was Cole who emerged as the obvious winner from their one-on-one battle. Kaufusi was no match for the sophomore left tackle, twice hitting the turf from jarring hand punches as Michigan completed third-down pass plays for 21- and 19-yard first downs that placed the ball at the BYU 1-yard marker. That would set up a 3-yard scoring scamper by Rudock, as he slipped into the right corner of the end zone while Cole and his line-mates shoved the Cougars first wall out of the way. It would be the eleventh consecutive time that Michigan had scored inside the red zone through the first four games on the 2015 schedule (nine touchdowns, two field goals)…Michigan added to their red zone success early in the second quarter. Rudock rolled to the left side, where Cole quickly slipped back and retreated to pick up the blitz, latching on to and ride rush end away from his quarterback, who located Amara Darboh in the end zone and hit the split end with a 4-yard scoring lob to cap a 10-play, 90-yard drive…The Cougars were anticipating a pass and stunted over the left side of the Michigan line, sending both of their defensive end – Kaufusi and Graham Rowley – over Cole’s area, but the left tackle used his wingspan to engulf both opponents. In what appeared to be the Cougars stuffing the play, Smith took the handoff instead of seeing Ruddock pass. The tailback’s forward progress was stalled, that is, until he saw Cole widening a rush lane, cutting though it and then high-stepping a few would be tacklers en route to a 60-yard touchdown jaunt that staked Michigan to a 21-0 lead…The Michigan quarterback might owe his left tackle a big dinner after Cole’s performance during the first half. Rudock, whose longest gain through his first three games as a Wolverine was a 9-yarder, scored for the second time vs. the Cougars on a 17-yard bolt before halftime. The sophomore tackle had spotted a blitz by Fred Warner, but he raced to the edge and cut off the strong-side linebacker. Rudock, who was looking downfield for an open receiver, instead saw the left side of the field “naked” and took off on a bootleg to increase the team’s lead to 28-0…Primary Blocking Assignment-DE#90-Bronson Kaufusi (6:08-287)-One assisted tackle; DE#48-Tomasi Laulile (6:04-282)-One solo tackle…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded seven key blocks/knockdowns, four touchdown-resulting blocks (three on running plays), grading a season-high 97% for blocking consistency...Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 14-of-25 passes (56.00%) for 194 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, rushing for 254 yards and three touchdowns on 51 carries (4.98 ypc), as they gained 448 yards on a total of 76 plays (5.89 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed two sacks for minus 15 yards, seven stops for losses totaling 20 yards and four quarterback pressures, but none were charged to their left tackle.

Maryland…Michigan recorded its second consecutive shutout and scored three touchdowns in the second half to run past Maryland, 28-0, in the conference opener. The Michigan defense held the Terrapins to just 105 total yards -- including 37 in the second half -- and had eight tackles-for-loss (four sacks), six pass break-ups and three interceptions. Their left tackle faced up to the Terps’ array of speedy pass rushers as he paved the way for tailback Drake Johnson’s thirteen carries for 68 yards and a touchdown…A missed block by the Wolverines left tackle saw rush end Yannick Ngakoue play off the outside shoulder of Cole to get the loop around he needed to pressure the pocket on third-&-3, causing quarterback Jake Rudock to throw the ball away and the Michigan punt unit to come on the field after their first possession for the day…Michigan settled for a 30-yard field goal after an 8-play second quarter series stalled, but the key play during that drive occurred on a play action snap, with the left tackle sealing the edge by riding Ngakoe away from the pocket. Rudock kept the ball, reverse field and serpentines through the Terrapin defense for a 20-yard bootleg that placed the ball at the Maryland 12-yard line…Maryland swarmed the Wolverines backfield, bringing a blitz up the middle while Ngakoe, who had deflected a pass on the previous play, tried to get to Rudock on the edge. With a jolting hand punch to the chest, Cole sent the defender flying and Rudock alertly flipped the ball to Drake Johnson, as the tailback slipped through between left tackle and guard before he was “off to the races” for a 31-yard catch-&-run touchdown that gave Michigan an early third quarter 14-0 lead…Thanks to blanket coverage by the Terps down the field, the Wolverines held on to the ball a bit too long and that allowed Ngakoue to apply backside pressure on a third quarter third-&-5 snap, using head fakes and a shuffle move to get by Cole and record his seventh sack for the season, dropping Rudock for an 8-yard loss that forced Michigan to punt as time ran out in the quarter. Through five contests, the U-M offensive line has surrendered just five sacks in total…Working in unison with his left guard (Ben Braden) on a combo block, Cole executed a quick hit that stalled Ngakoue before peeling off the defender to attack defensive tackle Azubuike Ukandu in-line, creating a pile of Terps that Drake Johnson managed to squeeze by for a 1-yard touchdown and a 28-0 Michigan lead with 6:53 left on the game clock. That play was set up earlier when Johnson bounced around a second level block by his left tackle to pick up 20 yards on a run that placed the ball at the Maryland 2, where he tried twice to get the ball into the end zone, gaining success on his second attempt…Primary Blocking Assignment-DE#7-Yannick Ngakoue (6:02-259)-One solo tackle, an 8-yard sack and one quarterback pressure; DT#99-Quintin Jefferson (6:03-289)-No tackles, one pass deflection…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded six key blocks/knockdowns, one touchdown-resulting block and one block down field, grading 82% for blocking consistency...Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 16-of-33 passes (48.48%) for 180 yards, one touchdown and one interception, rushing for 198 yards and two touch-downs on 40 carries (4.95 ypc), as they gained 378 yards on a total of 73 plays (5.18 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed two sacks for minus 11 yards, five stops for losses totaling 21 yards and one quarterback pressure, as one sack and one QB hurry was charged to their left tackle.

Northwestern…The Wildcats’ defense was leading the nation in stopping the run entering this match-up, having allowed only 117.4 yards per game, but the dominance of the Wolverines offensive line saw Northwestern give up over 200 yards (201) for the first time during the 2015 campaign. U-M recorded its third consecutive shutout -- a feat not previously accomplished since 1980 -- in a resounding 38-0 victory inside Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines scored at least one touchdown on offense, defense and special teams in the same game for the first time since 2003. Quarterback Jake Rudock was sharp all game, going 17-of-23 for 179 yards and adding a first-half rushing touchdown after following his left tackle into the end zone…Cole took the legs out from under defensive end Deonte Gibson to clear room for Reuben Jones to pick up 18 yards on a rushing attempt during the team’s first possession for the day. The left tackle then stalled promising young linebacker Anthony Walker’s edge rush as Rudock hid behind the left tackle until he found a wide-open Jake Butt on a 32-yard pass play that got the ball to the Wildcats’ 1-yard line. However, Michigan was pushed back one yard when Cole missed a block on Gibson and the rush end disengaged from the Michigan blocker to sack Rudock. The Wildcat would leave the game briefly, limping off the field with an ankle injury, but he would return to sack Rudock two more times before the game’s conclusion. Gibson’s replacement, Ifeadi Odenigbo, was no match for Cole, as the left tackle fired low off the snap to push the Northwestern defensive front back as Drake Johnson ended that 7-play, 59-yard series with a 1-yard touchdown run over the left side…On third-&-1, fullback Joe Kerridge rumbled 34 yards after hitting a hole between his left guard and tackle. Cole angled in-line to engage C.J. Robbins, pushing the defensive tackle back towards the sidelines to widen the rush lane as the ball carrier scooted by until he was stopped at the Wildcats 32-yard marker. A quick connection by Rudock to flanker Jehu Chesson that was good for 27 yards had Michigan staring at the end zone from two yards out. On a second-&-goal snap, Rudock faked the handoff and rolled left. Seeing that his left tackle had driven “mike” Anthony Walker into the end zone, he kept the ball and ran around the left side for a 2-yard score to cap a 75-yard, 6-play march late in the opening frame…The pocket started collapsing around Rudock as soon as he took the snap and Northwestern’s Deonte Gibson made an inside move on Cole to break free and sack the Wolverines quarterback for a 1-yard loss on third-&-5, as Michigan then settled for a 47-yard field goal at the start of third quarter action. Rudock was actually his own worst enemy on the play. The graduate senior is known for eyeballing his primary targets too long and in this case, with all of his receivers covered down field, his hesitation proved costly, as there is only so long that an offensive lineman can contain a defender when the signal-caller is hesitant with his secondary moves...Rudock was again sacked, as Anthony Walker captured him on a charge up the middle of the field, but Gibson played off a block by Cole to assist his middle linebacker by grabbing the Wolverines quarterback from behind as Walker attacked from the front on a third-&-4 play for a loss of 2 yards…Primary Blocking Assignment-DE#13-Deonte Gibson (6:03-267)-Three tackles (2 solos) and 2.5 sacks for losses of 10 yards; DE#7-Ifeadi Odenigbo (6:03-252)-Two tackles (one solo)…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded seven key blocks/knock-downs and two touchdown-resulting blocks, grading 76% for blocking consistency...Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 17-of-23 passes (73.91%) for 179 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions, rushing for 201 yards and three touchdowns on 46 carries (4.37 ypc), as they gained 380 yards on a total of 69 plays (5.51 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed three sacks, eight stops for losses totaling 18 yards and one quarterback pressure, as 2.5 sacks were charged to their left tackle.

Michigan State…Michigan saw a late lead slip away in the final seconds, falling to rival Michigan State in heartbreaking fashion, 27-23. The Wolverines held a two-point lead with 10 seconds left, but fifth-year senior punter Blake O'Neill fumbled the snap on the punt, and Michigan State recovered, returning it 38 yards for a touchdown as time expired…Behind the blocking efforts of their left tackle, quarterback Jake Rudock had a solid performance, going 15-of-25 for 168 yards. Cole posted seven knockdown with two touchdown-resulting blocks and even though his linemates allowed eight Wolverines to be tackled behind the line of scrimmage, the pass rush tandem of Sjilique Calhoun and Lawrence Thomas – with seven sacks and 8.5 more stops-for-loss through the first six games on the 2015 schedule – would combine for only one tackle-for-loss vs. the Michigan left tackle…Late in the first quarter, Cole engaged 305-pound Thomas, riding the Spartan away from fullback Sione Houma, who used the rush lane created when Cole stepped out in the direction of the play, cutting off Thomas’s pursuit long enough to give Houma a wide cutback lane to use for a first down. The series would conclude early in the second stanza, with Houma taking the ball into the end zone from two yards out at the end of an 8-play, 72-yard possession. Running a fullback-dive, Houma saw that his left tackle had created a pile when Cole pushed defensive end Evan Jones into several other Spartans, as the Wolverines put points up on the board for the first time in the contest…After officials twice called running plays touchdowns for the Wolverines during a third quarter series, only to have replay overturn those calls, Michigan ended that 6-play series the old fashioned way – they earned it. Coming off the snap, Cole pushed Thomas inside before taking the legs out from under defensive tackle Charles Evans. That created the slightest of creases that Houma used to punch the third-&-goal ball into the end zone from one yard away…Despite getting help from his backup tight end, Cole saw rush end Shilique Calhoun execute an inside move that saw him pressure the pocket on a first-&-goal incomplete pass later in the third frame…Even though it appeared that Calhoun was offside on the play, the rush end disrupted the pocket as Rudock threw the ball, only to have it batted back, with the quarterback catching his own toss before Calhoun converged to take him down for a 3-yard loss on third-&-3, bringing out the Michigan punt team with 1:47 left and the Wolverines holding a precarious 23-21 lead…Primary Blocking Assignment-DE#8-Lawrence Thomas (6:04-305)-Five tackles (3 solos), one pass deflection; DE#43 (note, wore number to honor a fallen teammate; usual #89)-Shilique Calhoun (6:04-266)-One solo tackle for a 3-yard loss, one quarterback pressure…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded seven key blocks/knock-downs, two touchdown-resulting blocks and one block down field, grading 83% for blocking consistency...Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 15-of-25 passes (60.00%) for 168 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions, rushing for 62 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries (1.88 ypc), as they gained 230 yards on a total of 58 plays (3.97 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed three sacks for minus 10 yards, nine stops for losses totaling 23 yards and two quarterback pressures, as one tackle-for-loss and one QB pressure was charged to their left tackle.

Minnesota…In another too-close-for-comfort contest, Michigan held at the goal line as time expired to pull out a gutsy 29-26 victory and reclaim the Little Brown Jug. Minnesota led, 26-21, midway through the fourth quarter, before the Wolverines mounted a seven-play, 40-yard drive behind sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight, who came on for fifth-year senior Jake Rudock, who went out injured, to complete 3-of-4 attempts, including a pivotal 12-yard score to Jehu Chesson. Speight found senior Amara Darboh on a two-point conversion for a 29-26 lead. On three of their touchdown drives, Cole provided a key block, as he would begin a string of four consecutive games by grading at least 90% in each contest…The Wolverines’ 8-play drive to the end zone featured three carries by their fullbacks, with Joe Kerridge using a scramble block my Cole that controlled Thieren Cockran, driving the defender back with his shoulder to clear room for the ball carrier’s touchdown. In twenty-six drives into an opponent’s end zone, Michigan has now scored on all but one of those chances, to date…Rudock threaded the needle with his toss to Chesson for a 13-yard second quarter touch-down, as he was provided ample pocket protect, as Cole demonstrated excellent slide protection, shifting to his left in anticipation of the outside rush, locking his big hands into Hendrick Ekpre to drive the defensive end away from the Wolverines quarterback…Playing for the oldest trophy in college football – The Little Brown Jug – head coach Jim Harbaugh kept on reaching into his “bag of tricks,” this time, using starting strong safety Jabrill Peppers to handle a few direct-snap plays out of the offensive backfield. First, the coach sent in a play that saw Chesson handle a third-&-4 reverse, as Peppers lined up in the slot, took the handoff and raced right, flipping the ball to the receiver, as Chesson followed Cole into the second level for a 22-yard gain down the left sideline, as the tackle crushed linebacker De’Vondre Campbell to give the U-M wide-out room to operate. Working in-line coming out of his stance, Cole’s big paws got into the grille of defensive tackle Andrew Stelter to spring Drake Johnson for a 13-yard run to the Gophers 6-yard line. From there, Harbaugh devised a play where Peppers lined up in the slot and took the direct snap, a play aptly called the “Wild Wolverine.” The safety then followed the lead blocks from the left side of the line, with Cole smashing into linebacker Cody Poock on Peppers’ 6-yard touchdown jaunt that ended a 7-play, 75-yard drive…Primary Blocking Assignment-DE#95-Hendrick Ekpe (6:05-243)-No tackles; DE#55-Theren Cockran (6:06-258)-No tackles; DE#87-Gaelin Elmore (6:06-266)-No tackles…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded six key blocks/knock-downs, three touchdown-resulting blocks (two on running plays) and one block down field, grading 95% for blocking consistency... Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 16-of-27 passes (59.26%) for 169 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, rushing for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries (3.74 ypc), as they gained 296 yards on a total of 61 plays (4.85 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed two sacks for minus 10 yards, six stops for losses totaling 17 yards and no quarterback pressures, but none were charged to their left tackle.

Rutgers…Michigan put up 35 points in the first half and saw six different players score touchdowns in a comfortable 49-16 win over Rutgers. The Wolverines were explosive on offense with eight plays of 20-plus yards, including seven that were recorded over the left side of their field, where Cole collected seven knockdowns with key blocks on three touchdown-resulting plays. The front wall continued to perform well in the second half of the schedule, as the offensive line allowed just thirteen sacks through their first nine appearances…The offensive line continued to perform at a high level since their early season “foibles,” and there left tackle was more than ready to face the constant blitz packages Rutgers tossed at the Wolverines front wall. Four different Scarlet Knights would line up vs. Cole – none with any semblance of success. Early in the first quarter, Cole executed a cross block, looping around his tight end to capture rush end Djawny Mera in the backfield, riding him away from the pocket on Jake Rudock’s right sideline toss of 32 yards to fullback Sione Houma. Rudock would put the team’s first points up on the board with a 13-yard strike to Jehu Chesson, as his left tackle again retreated into the backfield to neutralize a stunt by defensive tackle Julian Pinnix-Odrick…Rutgers brought pressure from both edges and up the middle, as Rudock frantically looked for an open receiver at the Rutgers 4-yard line. The quarterback looked to his left and saw that Cole was manhandling defensive end Quanzell Lambert on the wide side of the field. With a huge divide along the left boundary, Rudock tucked the ball and ran into the end zone, hitting the pylon as linebacker Darnell Davis could manage to only get his fingertips on the Wolverines’ leg before the officials signaled for a touchdown…Cole continued to help the Wolverines win the war in the trenches, firing low off the snap to deliver a double-whammy hand punch that sent end Djwany Mera into the end zone, as the blocker widened the rush lane between left tackle and guard used by tailback Reuben Jones for a 4-yard score that staked Michigan to an early third quarter 43-16 lead…Primary Blocking Assignment-DE#22-Quanzell Lambert (6:01-262)-Two assisted tackles, one pass deflection; DE#93-Djwany Mera (6:04-269)-One assisted tackle; DT#53-Julian Pinnix-Odrick (6:05-277)-One assisted tackle…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded seven key blocks/ knockdowns, three touchdown-resulting blocks (two on running plays) and one block down field, grading 91% for blocking consistency... Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 18-of-26 passes (69.23%) for 337 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, rushing for 150 yards and four touchdowns on 42 carries (3.57 ypc), as they gained 487 yards on a total of 68 plays (7.16 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed no sacks, five stops for losses totaling 19 yards and no quarterback pressures, but none were charged to their left tackle.

Indiana…It was like Mouse Davis was coaching the revival of the Run-&-Shoot offense – at least for both teams. Quarterback Jake Rudock threw six touchdown passes, including four to wide receiver Jehu Chesson -- tying a school record -- as Michigan rallied to tie the game with two seconds left before putting up 14 points in overtime in a 48-41 win over the Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium. In a great display of pass protection, making two touchdown-resulting blocks that aided the aerial game…Playing vs. the Hoosiers three-man front, Cole had to deal with their edge rushers and second level defenders all day and this play was no exception. Speedy “Bandit” Zack Shaw took a bead on the Michigan quarterback, but Rudock brought “protection,” as Cole reverted in-line, taking out Shaw with a forearm blast, giving Rudock room to get into the rush lane and pick up 23 yards on a third-&-5 second quarter option play near midfield, giving the Wolverines room to operate after they were penalized half the distance to the goal when flagged for a chop block in the backfield by guard Ben Braden. Cole then made a nice block in the open field, flattening weak-side linebacker Tegray Scales as Jabrill Peppers took a short toss in the backfield, hitching a ride behind Cole along the left sideline for an 18-yard pickup to the Indiana 32. The Hoosiers have one of the worst third-down defenses in college football and Cole would add to their problems. When all of his receivers were covered, Rudock again glanced to his left side, where he saw his left tackle simply steam-roll over Zack Shaw. The quarterback used his feet instead of his arm, bolted away from the backfield pressure and took off on a 19-yard run that placed the ball inside the red zone. Michigan entered the game having recorded touchdowns on 71% of their drives in the red zone, 14th best in the NCAA, and they would improve that figure at the end of this ten-play, 75-yard possession. Rudock had all the time in the world to drop back and unleash a 15-yard touchdown pass to Chesson, thanks to the protection he received on the left side of the field. Tight end Jake Butt and Cole combined to tie up “Bandit” Greg Gooch and no other Hoosier could get past that tandem into the backfield. For the rest of the day, Michigan ball carriers took a back seat, as their quarterback, secured with his protection up front, would go on to torch the Indiana secondary for 440 yards and six touchdowns, as he also toted the pigskin seven times for a team-best 64 yards…Michigan was trailing, 34-27, with less than three minutes remaining and Rudock needed his offensive line to hunker down, as he planned on adding to his aerial attack. Zack Shaw was again the victim of a hand punch from Cole that nearly floored the Hoosier, but it also gave the U-M quarterback time to connect with Chesson on a sensational catch-&-grab for 41 yards on third-&-3 that was downed at Indiana 2-yard marker. Michigan failed to score on the next three snaps and faced a fourth-&-goal situation with only five seconds left on the game clock. Rudock only need three seconds to knot the game up at 34-all, as he called for a play pass and Chesson’s number once again. With fans looking on in deathly silence, the team came out of the huddle and from shotgun formation, Rudock tossed a 5-yard scoring lob to his receiver. The quarterback was mere inches from being sacked on the play, but Cole bounced off his initial block on defensive tackle Darius Latham and saw Shaw looping around the outside. With arms outstretched and ready to close on Rudock, he was suddenly blasted out of the picture, with Cole making like the WWE’s Roman Reigns, delivering Shaw to the ground with a bone-jarring hand jolt. The game would go to double overtime, with Rudock being successful on both of his touch-down passes and Michigan went home with an exciting 48-41 victory…Primary Blocking Assignment-DE/Bandit#33-Zack Shaw (6:03-253)-Two solo tackles, one pass deflection; DE/Bandit#49-Greg Gooch (6:02-252)-One solo tackle…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded nine key blocks/knockdowns, two touchdown-resulting blocks and two blocks down field, grading 94% for blocking consistency...Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 33-of-46 passes (71.74%) for 440 yards, six touchdowns and one interception, rushing for 141 yards and no touch-downs on 28 carries (5.04 ypc), as they gained 581 yards on a total of 74 plays (7.85 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed one 7-yard sack, seven stops for losses totaling 39 yards and no quarterback pressures, but none were charged to their left tackle.

Penn State…Quarterback Jake Rudock threw for two touchdowns and his left tackle registered six knockdowns on the way to earning his fourth consecutive blocking consistency grade of at least 90%, helping the Wolverines earn a 28-16 victory at Penn State…Cole stalled the forward charge of Garrett Sickles, pushing the defensive end inside while assisting guard Ben Braden in also holding off nose tackle Austin Johnson to form a shield used to protect the quarterback on a 39-yard toss to Jehu Chesson down the left sideline that placed the ball at the PSU 26. The sidelines had a bit of a scare as Chesson was slow to get up after the catch, taking a late hit after the whistle had blown, but seemed to be okay after getting the wind knocked out of him. Confident in his protection and knowing he had other receiving option, Rudock took the next snap, looked left and saw both Cole and Braden working in combination to ride Sickles away from the pocket long enough for Rudock to locate tight end Jake Butt near the left pylon for a 26-yard touchdown toss and Michigan’s first points for the afternoon…Midway through the third quarter, Penn State turned the ball over when they flubbed a punt return, giving Michigan an easy opportunity to score with the ball resting inside the PSU 10-yard line. On a quick handoff to Jabrill Peppers, the double-duty Wolverine angled left and used a block by Cole that brought down defensive end Evan Schwan to advance the ball six yards on a carry to the 3-yard marker. Two plays later and with the Wolverines facing a third-&-goal situation, it was fullback Sione Houma who would score from one yard out. Playing in a phone booth, Cole exploded out of his stance, getting both of his mitts into the chest of Parker Cothren, driving the defensive tackle into fellow PSU interior defender Anthony Zettel as the officials signaled for a touchdown…Hanging on to a five-point lead with 7:53 left on the game clock, Michigan wanted to score quickly to gain some breathing room. While their aerial attack was their most relied upon weapon (256 yards for the day), the team had yet to establish their ground game, which had amassed just 30 of their total of 87 yards for the game before this scoring drive. That would soon change, as Cole led an end around that saw Chesson return to action with a 20-yard gain down the left side of the field. A pass interference call vs. Penn State put the ball at the 6-yard line, but the Wolverines again saw their star receiver leave the game, as he injured his left shoulder on the pass interference call. Peppers added five yards to his rushing total, lowering his pads and following Cole’s lead to the 1-yard line. It was now time for Michigan’s power option, as they brought three tight ends on the field. The left tackle’s block near the goal line would see the Nittany Lions lose scrappy strong safety Malik Golden to an injury, as he was caught under the pile the Wolverine blocker had created. Michigan would also suffer an injury on the play, when nose tackle Austin Johnson fell on the leg of right guard Todd Kalis. For a line that played the entire season intact, the Wolverines were without one of the steady pieces on the front wall. On second-&-goal, a banged-up De’Veon Smith had enough gas left in his tank to take the handoff. The Tailback followed the lead of his left tackle, as Cole stood up defensive tackle Anthony Zettel, giving Smith room to move the ball into the end zone for a 28-16 lead that put the game out of reach with 5:12 remaining…Primary Blocking Assignment-DE#90-Garrett Sickles (6:04-258)-One assisted tackle; DT-Anthony Zettel (6:04-288)-No tackles; DE#95-Carl Nassib (6:07-272)-No tackles; NG#99-Austin Johnson (6:04-323)-One assisted tackle…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded six key blocks/knockdowns, two touchdown-resulting blocks and one block down field, grading 92% for blocking consistency...Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 25-of-38 passes (65.79%) for 256 yards, two touch-downs and one interception, rushing for 87 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries (2.90 ypc), as they gained 343 yards on a total of 68 plays (5.04 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed two sacks for minus 10 yards, four stops for losses totaling 15 yards and no quarterback pressures, but none were charged to their left tackle.

Ohio State…The Wolverines were throttled by the Buckeyes, 42-13, dashing their faint hopes for playing in the conference championship game. The offensive line had more than their hands full vs. a swarming Ohio State front seven, as quarterback Jake Rudock might have throw for 250 times for the fourth consecutive game – a school record – but he was sacked twice and harassed in the pocket often…The offense needed a spark, as Michigan was trailing, 14-3, late in the second quarter. Rudock tossed a short pass to Jabrill Peppers along the left side of the backfield and the safety/ tailback saw his left tackle drive defensive end Tyquan Lewis towards the sidelines, creating the cutback lane Peppers needed to convert the toss into a 13-yard first down near midfield. That play would spark the Wolverines hurry-up offense that took eleven plays and 92 yards to put their first touchdown for the day on the board. On third-&-2, Rudock found Jehu Chesson uncovered near the left corner of the end zone for a 5-yard score, thanks to Cole driving his shoulder into Tyquan Lewis to again ride the defensive end out of the pocket…Ohio State All-American defensive end Joey Bosa ripped past Michigan right tackle Erik Magnuson to sack Rudock, but the quarterback fumbled the ball. Fortunately, Cole alertly pounced on the lose pigskin and rather than give Ohio State great field position at the Michigan 41, they punted the ball away and it was downed at the OSU 16-yard marker…Magnuson, who had a rough time all day vs. Bosa, would switch positions with Cole for a few plays on the next series before Cole returned to his normal weak-side tackle spot. Unfortunately, Bosa also beat Cole coming off the right edge early in the fourth frame, sacking Rudock a 6-yard loss. It appeared that the quarterback had fumbled the ball during the sack, with OSU recovering, but officials ruled the Wolverine was down before the pigskin popped out. Back on the left side, Cole could only observe as Magnuson was again beaten on an attempt to stop Bosa, who charged hard from the right side, tipping a Ruddock pass that the Buckeye managed to pick off and advance 28 yards to the Michigan 9 to seal the Ohio State rout of the Wolverines…Despite leading 42-13, the Ohio State defensive line reserves resorted to a few dirty tactics. When defensive end Darius Slade decided to punch, rather than swipe, Cole gave the Buckeye a little “luv tug,” but officials flagged the tackle for grabbing the defender’s helmet with less than two minutes left to play…Primary Blocking Assignment-DE#59-Tyquan Lewis (6:04-264)-Two tackles (one solo); DE#97-Joey Bosa (6:06-277)-One solo tackle, a 6-yard sack, one interception; DE#10-Jalyn Holmes (6:05-266)-No tackles…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded six key blocks/knockdowns and one touch-down-resulting block, but he was penalized once for a personal foul (grabbed helmet), grading 75% for blocking consistency...Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 25-of-47 passes (53.19%) for 307 yards, one touchdowns and one interception, rushing for 57 yards and no touch-downs on 25 carries (2.28 ypc), as they gained 364 yards on a total of 72 plays (5.06 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed two sacks for minus 11 yards, three stops for losses totaling 12 yards and five quarterback pressures, with a 6-yard sack charged to their left tackle.

Florida (Citrus Bowl)…If football was taught chemistry class, the Michigan offensive line would all be “mad scientists,” as this cohesive unit again continued to progress after some early season foibles and a “blip” on the radar vs. Ohio State in the regular season finale. Florida entered the contest having recorded forty quarterback sacks, the fourth-best total in the NCAA Football Bowl Sub-division ranks. That number failed to impress Cole and his line mates, as no Gators defender got to their quarterback while Michigan piled up 34 unanswered points on the way to a 41-6 triumph. Florida would manage to pressure the pocket only once, on a meaningless late game series, by a backup linebacker…The Wolverines scored 34 unanswered points in a 41-7 drubbing of 19th-ranked Florida in the 70th playing of the Citrus Bowl. Michigan asserted control early in the second quarter and never looked back, totaling the highest single-game point total allowed by Florida this season…Cole started the game off with a bang – literally - as he fired off the snap, pushing defensive tackle Khari Clark inside. The left tackle reached the second level, neutralizing middle linebacker Antonio Morrison as De’Veon Smith followed his blocker en route to a 24-yard carry into the Florida red zone. Michigan had trouble with the handoff to Drake Johnson and by the time the tailback got going, the Florida defense was swarming into the backfield, but Johnson capitalized on a huge hole created by Cole, who was “looking to the sky” to quickly locate the Gators defense’s weakness, attacking an oncoming Jarrad Davis to push the middle linebacker through the rush lane that Johnson used for a 12-yard gain around his left tackle. The 9-play, 73-yard series ended with Cole leading a power sweep around the left corner with Johnson trailing. Cole blasted into a slew of Gators, as five tried feebly to get to the ball carrier before Johnson skipped into the left corner of the end zone for a 4-yard score…Michigan converted 7-of-8 third-down opportunities in the second half and finished with 503 total yards of offense. Florida, which entered play among the national leaders in tackles for a loss, got into U-M's backfield just three times in the game with no sacks…Cole executed a combo block with guard Ben Braden that held off a blitz and a trio of Gators on Jake Rudock’s 45-yard pass to Jehu Chesson that put the ball at the Florida 10. The quarter-back, who was benched after completing 2-of-8 passes for Iowa vs. Tennessee in the Taxslayer Bowl last year, justified Jim Harbaugh’s faith in the graduate transfer, who would finish this rout of Florida by throwing for 278 yards and three touchdowns (two coming on passes that All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was beaten on). However, this drive would end the old-fashioned way, with a cloud of dust generated from the feet of fullback Sione Houma, who took the ball on third-&-goal and bulled his way into the end zone for a 2-yard score, using a log block by Cole, who had turned inside to drive defensive tackle Jon Bullard out of the rush lane…Primary Blocking Assignment-DE#17-Jordan Sherit (6:04-257)-Two solo tackles…Cole Offensive Impact-The lineman recorded six key blocks/knockdowns, two touchdown-resulting blocks and one block down field, grading 90% for blocking consistency...Team Offensive Impact-The Wolverines completed 20-of-31 passes (64.52%) for 278 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, rushing for 225 yards and two touchdowns on 46 carries (4.89 ypc), as they gained 503 yards on a total of 77 plays (6.53 yards per attempt)…The offensive line allowed no sacks, three stops for losses totaling three yards and one quarterback pressure, but none were charged to their left tackle.

2014 SEASON...Cole was a Freshman All-American selection by The NFL Draft Report, ESPN.com and Sporting News, as he became the first true freshman to debut as a starter on the offensive line and just the second freshman blocker to ever start any games during his first season…Having added over twenty-five pounds to his frame prior to arriving for August camp, he seized the opportunity and took over left tackle duties and joined the first unit vs. Appalachian State. By doing so, he joined former Michigan All-American William “Bubba” Paris (1978) as the only Wolverines to start a game at tackle as true freshmen…Cole’s presence helped the ground attack average 162.83 yards per game after managing just an average of 125.7 yards in 2013…Michigan did see their passing unit suffer, averaging 170.17 yards (posted a 247.8-yard average in 2013)…On seventeen of their touchdown runs, thirteen were recorded behind the left side blocking…The front wall reduced their sacks allowed total to twenty-five and allowed seventy total tackles behind the line of scrimmage. In 2013, they yielded 36.0 sacks, 114.0 tackles-for-loss and 29 quarterback pressures.

INJURY REPORT...No major injuries reported and has never missed a game at Michigan…Did perform in a summer camp during high school with a cast on his hand.

AGILITY TESTS...4.96 in the 40-yard dash (hand-held)…5.05 in the 40-yard dash (electronic)…1.68 10-yard dash…2.88 20-yard dash…4.64 20-yard shuttle…7.52 three-cone drill…29-inch vertical jump…8’-09” broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times…34 1/8-inch arm length…10-inch hands…80 1/8-inch wingspan.

HIGH SCHOOL...Cole attended East Lake (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) High School, playing football for Eagles head coach Bob Hudson…Lettered four times on the gridiron, earning All-Area and All-State honors as an offensive tackle during his junior season…Also performed on the defensive line during his final two prep seasons…A USA Today All-American preseason selection as a senior, he closed out his career by participating in the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl…Cole's coach, Bob Hudson, said of him: "He's that guy, as a coach, that you want a whole team of. He does what he's supposed to do. He stays out of trouble. He's not late to meetings. He's not lazy. He's always moving. He's coachable. He can take criticism. He doesn't need praise every play. He's what you dream of as a coach."

PERSONAL...Cole is enrolled in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts…Born Mason Cole on 3/28/96, he resides in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

The NFL Draft Report's "Cream of the Crop" Series - Former Prep Quarterback Bucky Hodges Is Mastering The Art of Playing Tight End


Recruited as a pro style quarterback, Bucky Hodges is well on his way to establishing himself as the finest tight end to ever put on a Virginia Tech uniform. He already owns the school position records for receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches, accomplishing that feat in 32 games

TEMUCHIN “BUCKY” HODGES   Tight End   Virginia Polytechnic (Tech) Institute Hokies  #56  6:06.1-249  Virginia Beach, Virginia   Salem High School

One of the finest athletes in the history of the Virginia Tech program, the new coaching staff plans to utilize this tight end hybrid similar to how New England has capitalized on the receiving skills by Rob Gronkowski. As a former prep quarterback, Hodges has had just two seasons to learn the intricacies of playing the tight end position, but his rapid development the last two seasons have professional scouts favorably comparing him to another NFL standout who had minimal time as a tight end before emerging as one of the league’s elite – Seattle’s Jimmy Graham.

"That tight end/hybrid position... besides the quarterback it’s the most difficult spot in the offense," former Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. "There are multiple job responsibilities and that’s what causes problems for the defense is that those guys are lining up everywhere." The coach’s pupil proved to be a fast study, as Hodges has compiled 85 receptions for 1,056 yards and thirteen touchdowns in just two seasons.

Understand that Hodges performed those numbers while playing in an offensive scheme that believes that football’s “holy bible” is their running game. Until Hodges emerged, most of the tight end duties required them to block for the running backs or serve as passing decoys. In the history of the NFL Draft, teams have had little regard for Tech players at Hodges’ position, as only six have been drafted and none have gone higher than the fourth round.

Hodges has been utilized in a variety of roles for the Hokies this year, creating huge mismatches vs. cornerbacks when he lines up at either flanker or split end, when not performing in the traditional tight end role

Among the thirty Hokies to register at least 1,000 receiving yards in a career, Hodges is just the third tight end to reach that mark. Early in the 2016 schedule, he went on to establish school career marks for tight ends, as he boasts figures of 103 receptions for 1,313 yards and sixteen touchdowns. He is the lone player at his position to reach double-digit touchdown figures. Pass catching has not been the only way that he has put six points up on the board, as he recovered a blocked kick in the end zone for a score vs. Virginia in 2014 and last season, running from the “wildcat” formation, he again chalked up a touchdown on an option run around the left sideline vs. Tulsa in the Independence Bowl.

WHAT’S IN A NAME...While he prefers to go by the nickname “Bucky,” his given name of Temuchin lends meaning to the ball player’s character (means Communication, Interaction, Friendship, Joy, Lightness, Humor, Art, Positivity, Optimism). Hodges, being a former quarterback, has developed good chemistry with those calling the signals for the Hokies, which made for a seamless transition while having to catch tosses from five different quarterbacks as a freshman, and again as a sophomore.

His interaction comes from his keen knowledge of the playbook, so much so, that the staff entrusted him with those “wildcat” duties even during his first year in a Tech uniform. Friendship, Joy, Lightness and Humor are what he brings inside the locker room, but on the field that persona changes and he assumes a “take no prisoners” attitude.

The Human Development major’s association with Art comes from his ability to perform textbook-like route running, as few tight ends in this game have the acceleration and escape-ability that Hodges possesses, as it has allowed the coaches to often line him out wide, creating tremendous mismatches vs. defensive backs. Positivity comes from his ability to shut out the negative and play until the whistle – no matter what the scoreboard is indicating. And Optimism derives from his attitude – not cocky, yet confident that if he follows his coach’s mantra and takes the plays from the chalk board to the field, he will have success in performing that task.

Hodges is an interesting young man, so much so that at age fifteen, while quarterbacking his Salem High School football team, he would often be seen running off the field after a series, coming to the sidelines and telling his coaches things that they couldn't see from the sidelines. A lot of times, he was also giving them ideas so they could set up other things.

While he has yet to attempt a pass at the collegiate level, Hodges has taken eighteen direct snaps from center the last three years

MAJOR COLLEGES COVET THE MULTI-ATHLETE SALEM HIGH SCHOOL STANDOUT

Hodges first began to capture college recruiting attention as soon as he suited up for Salem High School. Dual-threat quarterbacks that are weaned on a pro-style offensive system like Hodges operated under for Sundevils head coach Robert Jackson are in high demand at the major college level, yet, surprisingly, he ended up at a university known for their ground attack.

At Salem High, he led the team to an 8-4 record in 2010, scoring eight times on 102 carries that netted 438 yards, along with connecting on 59.8% of his passes (119-0f-199) for 1,602 yards and thirteen more scores. He grew into a mammoth quarterback by his sophomore year, one who was captivating in the ground game with almost a Cam Newton-like combination of size and speed. Recruiters recognized his strong pocket presence and that he was a youngster who senses pressure well and can fire off accurate passes in the short and intermediate routes. Still, it was his running skills that were highlighted during an 10-2 2011 campaign that saw him add nine more touchdowns to his total.

Keeping up with that consistency, Hodges completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,142 yards and 26 touchdowns, with six interceptions that year, as the Sundevils finished with a 9-1 record in the region. As a senior, he connected on 126-of-206 passes (61.17%) for 2,214 yards, with 18 touch-downs and six interceptions. He also rushed for 505 yards and eleven more scores, as the Salem QB earned All-Eastern Region, All-Tidewater, All-757 and All-Beach District accolades in 2013.

Hodges was listed as the 171st-best overall player in the country, the tenth-best pro-style quarter-back in the prep ranks and the tenth-best athlete in the state of Virginia by Rivals.com. He was ranked 179th in the nation by Prep Star and the fourth-best prospect in the state by The Roanoke Times. Super Prep regarded him as the state’s fifth-best player while 247Sports considered him to be Virginia’s seventh-best athlete and the fourth-best dual-threat quarterback in the country.

ESPN Recruiting Nation’s 14th-ranked player added ESPN300 honors in 2013. The Super Prep preseason All-American closed out his prep career after participating in the Offense-Defense All-America Bowl. He also lettered in basketball, averaging ten points and seven rebounds per game during his first season on the varsity. During the 2011-12 hoops season, he played in 21 games after the gridiron schedule concluded, blocking ten shots as he averaged 10.1 points per game, making 77-of-171 field goals and 36-of-67 free throws. He pulled down 168 rebounds (8.0 avg), handed out 45 assists and had fifteen steals.

Keeping himself occupied when the football and basketball seasons had concluded, the gifted athlete tried his hand in track, performing in the 100m, 200m, 300m and 400-meter dashes, the discus, high jump and triple jump. As a member of the 2011 indoor team, he recorded a 42.25-second mark in the 300 meters at SNU’s High School Winter Frolic, where he also posted a high jump mark of five feet/four inches. At the Atlantic Coast Invitational, he recorded a high jump of 34 feet/4.5 inches.

During the 2011 outdoor season, he finished second in the triple jump (38 feet/two inches) at the Tallwood Meet and tossed the discus (74 feet/four inches) at The Fork Outdoor Invitational. At that event, he was also a member of the school’s 4x100 relay team that captured the title with a time of 49.13. In 2012, Hodges finished third in the 100 meters (11.28) at the Beach District – Salem, Princess Anne at First Colonial outdoor event, adding a second place mark of 23.32 in the 200 meters while finishing second in the 400 meters (52.86). His 4x100 relay team was also runner-up at that event with a time of 43.79. CNU’s 28th Annual High School Captains Classic was where he helped the 4x400 relay team finish at 3:41.15.

An imposing figure at 6:05, 249, Hodges also has the valid speed to stretch the field, as 22 of his 103 receptions have gained at least twenty yards

JOINING THE VIRGINIA POLYTECHNIC (TECH) INSTITUTE HOKIES

With his elite status as a high school quarterback, Hodges was asked to move to tight end when he first arrived on campus. Evident by his academic success in high school (3.1 grade point average), the multi-sport star not only proved to be a quick study – starting ten times through thirteen games as a freshman, but he also displayed the maturity level that makes his grandmother proud.

Most blue chip recruits would balk when asked to change from the glamour position to a supporting role, but Hodges embraced the move. Again in a sign of impressive maturity, he accepted the change without hesitation and the coaches told him to not be surprised if he’s asked to take some snaps under center during his career. "I consider myself a football player," Hodges said. "Whatever coach wants me to do, I go out there and do it." One attaboy kid, words that make any professional scout grin from ear-to-ear as he evaluates the Tech talented tight end.

When he first arrived on campus, Hodges was red-shirted, spending the 2013 season as the scout team’s quarterback. As his body continued to grow and the muscles and bulk developed, the staff toyed with the idea on how to best use this impressive athlete. During his first year at the university, you could look for Hodges to pass or look at a lineman blocking for him. Playing tight end wasn't even a fleeting thought. However, when a graduate assistant told him to take a look at what tight end Eric Ebron was doing at North Carolina and see if he didn't see a little of himself, Hodges listened.

He's glad he did. Still, when Hodges moved to tight end at the start of October for the week heading into Tech's eventual 27-17 win against North Carolina, it was just a trial run. He didn't realize it would turn into a new career path. "After I played it for a week, I was just having so much fun out there, I decided to stay there," said Hodges. "I feel like it's been a good process with the switch. I definitely feel like it's turned smoother."

While studying the 6:04, 265-pound Ebron, a first team All-ACC tight end who was selected by the Detroit Lions in the first round of the 2015 draft, Hodges realized playing tight end would offer a good opportunity to show off his athleticism. "I liked his game a lot," Hodges said. "He's a playmaker, and he changed the game a lot when he was at UNC. He's real fast at tight end. He was creating a lot of mismatches with his speed, and I liked the way he was talking, too. He (had) swag. He said he was the fastest tight end in the nation and stuff like that."

No Tech tight end had caught 30 or more passes since 1987, which was Frank Beamer's first season as coach in Blacksburg. Tight end Steve Johnson led the team in 1987 with 38 catches for 475 yards and three touchdowns. Hodges’ move to tight end and his rapid development earned him Freshman All-American, All-Atlantic Coast Conference and All-State honors in 2013, as he was on the field for 66 special team snaps and 612 more on offense, with several plays specialized for him at the quarterback spot.

He not only set the school freshman season-record with 45 receptions, it was also one shy of the Tech position record of 46 grabs by Mike Burnop in 1971. He accounted for 526 yards his seven touchdowns established a new annual position record for the Hokies. "I think me and him complement each other pretty well," said fellow tight end Ryan Malleck. "When the two of us are on the field, you can see us running the power (running game) behind us and also throwing the ball deep ... so, I think it's tough for defenses to defend us."

"I think Ryan has been terrific for Bucky," Tech tight ends coach Bryan Stinespring said. "I think he's that voice of reason, that experience factor. I see them talking in my meeting room (and) on the field. It's a continuous conversation." Because of his athleticism, Tech would often line up Hodges outside as a wide receiver, or in the slot as a big target.

Hodges earned the Coaches Award for his excellence during the 2015 off-season, as he returned to start every game for Tech as a red-shirt sophomore. Quarterback issues left him as a decoy most of the first half of the schedule, but once Mike Brewer returned, the tight end snared forty passes for 530 yards and six touchdowns. He also set a new position record by scoring three times in the Duke clash. With head coach Frank Beamer stepping down, the new coaches had to wait and see if their star athlete would return to school in 2016, but he assured the staff that he would “see you in September.”

Many scouts felt that it was time for Hodges to test his skills in the National Football League. When a player like Hodges comes through the league's doors, the scouts reasoned, general managers better take notice. He showed up at Virginia Tech as a quarterback, but as his first year went along, he found himself spending more time at tight end while redshirting in 2013. By often moving around the field, Hodges has played as an in-line tight end, a solo receiver on the boundary and a jumbo slot target. Not one Hokie is motioned on offense more than him, either.

If you managed to catch one of Hodges' games last season, he's not hard to miss. Announcers gush over the fact that he's listed as a 6'7" athlete. What will go unnoticed, though, is his blocking ability.

No better example of his blocking skills came during Tech's battle vs. Tulsa in the Independence Bowl. Two early blocks on the perimeter by him impacted two long touchdowns against Tulsa's defense. He's more than willing to participate as a blocker, which is half the battle with college tight ends, and he's even held his own against defensive ends, not just defensive backs.

In 2016, the new coaching staff added a “wrinkle” to Hodges’ game book. Not only is he lining up at the traditional tight end spot, but he has also appeared as a flanker, in motion and also has received several opportunities to carry the ball. Through six contests, he’s caught 18-of-24 passes targeted to him for 257 yards, three touchdowns and an impressive seventeen first downs, adding 32 yards on six carries.

Using his raw power to break a tackle vs. Richmond, Hodges has has turned 60 of his receptions into first downs, converting 24 third-down plays in the process

THE NFL DRAFT AND THE VIRGINIA TECH TIGHT END HISTORY

NFL teams have not exactly been knocking on the door in Blacksburg when it comes to searching for pro-style tight ends. Since the inception of the draft in 1936, only six Hokies at the position have been drafted. The first was Ken Barefoot, a fifth round pick by Washington in 1968. In three seasons at Tech, he snared 68 balls for 742 yards and eight touchdowns via thirty games, but in eight contests as a professional, he never caught the ball.

It would not be until 1985 that another Virginia Tech tight end would hear his name called. Dallas used the 270th overall pick (round ten) to take Joe Jones, but he lasted just three games in 1987 after sitting out the 1986 calendar, grabbing three passes for the Pokes after making 43 catches as a Hokie. Three years later, Steve Johnson joined the Patriots in Round Six, but despite playing in fourteen games, his pro career consisted of one catch. At Tech, he managed to pull down 84 tosses for 1,058 yards (one of three to go over 1,000 yards for Tech as a tight end) and eight scores.

John Burke holds the distinction for being the tight end to be drafted the earliest out of the school, as New England used their fourth round selection (pick #121) to take him in 1994. He lasted four seasons and sixty games in the league, but failed to score on any of his 28 receptions. In 2002, Dallas selected Bob Slowikowski in the sixth round, but he is the only one of the six Tech tight ends to be drafted who never played in the NFL.

The most successful Virginia Tech tight end in the professional ranks was Jeff King. A 2006 fifth round pick by Carolina, he started 84-of-108 games from 2006-12, making 156 catches for 1,323 yards and twelve touchdowns. Hodges recently broke King’s school position record with thirteen touchdown catches, as King reached the end zone twelve times for the Hokies behind 58 catches for 724 yards.

Hodges worked hard on improving his catching radius during the off-season. After dropping eight balls as a freshman and sophomore combined, he's only put one toss on the ground in 2016

HODGES SCOUTING REPORT

Body Structure…Hodges has exceptional size and increased his bulk the last two years after arriving on campus weighing 225 pounds. The former quarterback displays excellent skills from his basketball days and with his frame maturing, he has that build you look for in a classic tight end, but possesses the cat-like quickness to often line up wide. With that strong, well-developed upper body frame, it allows him to quickly gain advantage as a blocker and create mismatches when challenged by defensive backs, as he utilizes that long reach to win most jump ball situations.

He has large hands, as he shows the flexibility, along with the long arms to get to balls outside his frame. He has room to add some more bulk, but a massive overload will impact one of his best assets – quickness. He has a firm midsection, good bubble and developed muscle tone in his thighs and calves. He maintains low body fat and has a V-shaped torso with good overall muscle tone.

Athletic Ability…Hodges has very good foot work coming off the snap, showing quickness getting into his routes. He shows good agility and balance navigating through a crowd and fluid flexibility, which allows him to make quick and decisive moves when changing direction. He demonstrates good acceleration throughout the route’s progression and is a normal strider who has the body control and arm extension to catch away from his frame.

Hodges is a much better athlete than even his impressive receiving production indicates (hopefully the new staff recognizes him as a valid deep threat), as he is just as happy at throwing a crunching second level block as he is coming up with the big grab. He runs with a normal stride and has more than enough acceleration to easily get behind second level defenders and most safeties.

He shows agility, balance, body control and hand/eye coordination looking the ball in over his outside shoulder, along with the quickness to get down field and separate underneath. He shows very good flexibility as an in-line blocker, doing a nice job of making adjustments to mirror edge rushers. While most of his drops are due to the learning process (was a quarterback recruit in 2013 with no prior tight end experience), he displays very good hands and solid extension skills to reach and pluck the ball at its high point. What you see from Hodges is that he is a fluid mover with very good hand/eye coordination extending for the ball outside his frame.

Football Sense…Hodges is like having an offensive lineman with speed (others call him a coach on the field, as his exceptional knowledge of the playbook comes from his quarterback experience), for his ability to locate and block vs. second level defenders. He keeps his head on a swivel looking for targets to attack and has a good angle concept for attacking the opponent when on the move. He does not need more than minimal reps to retain plays and works well without the ball, doing a nice job of finding and settling into the soft areas on the field.

Hodges had some ball drop issues earlier in his career, but once he learned the intricacies of being a tight end, those problems quickly disappeared in 2015. He now is the type who will securely catch the ball before heading up field. It is very rare to see him make assignment errors (just two penalties as a sophomore, including one on special teams) and he is the type that learns football easily, looking very instinctive in his movements when reviewing film on him (see 2015 Duke and Purdue games).

Hodges is very alert to sticks and boundaries. While he is the type that has the valid speed to line up wide, he is also comfortable playing with his hand down at the next level. He retains plays with normal reps, and his test score is well above average, as he is quick to take what he has learned in the meeting room to the playing field. You’d be surprised that he is really still a neophyte at the tight end position and is still learning the game, but he has shown that veteran-like attitude and willingness to work at it. He is quite instinctive when it comes to recognizing defensive coverage (rarely will run into spots) and there is no doubt that he should be able to handle the mental aspect of the game at the next level.

Competitiveness…Hodges is not the type that will get in a defender’s face or talk trash, preferring to let his production speak volumes for his ability. He is a physical blocker who loves the thought of stalking second level defenders. He is a powerful hitter who gives good effort as a receiver or clearing out rush lanes. He will not hesitate to compete for the ball in a crowd (see 2015 Furman, East Carolina, Miami and North Carolina games).

He is not going to be a fiery type like former Bucs’ Kellen Winslow, but he will give 110% in every aspect of his game. The thing you see on film is that he will not hesitate to sell out in order to make the big catch. He has become a tenacious blocker and shows good effort in attempts to sustain and finish his blocks.

Simply put, Hodges is a tough player and good contact seeker. He enjoys performing as a blocker almost as much as he does as a receiver. He is very physical as a blocker and will not hesitate to face up to a bigger opponent. What he does best id come up with clutch catches in pressure situations (see 2015 Purdue, Duke, North Carolina and Tulsa games). He shows no hesitation going up and competing for the ball. He played through minor injuries early in the 2015 schedule and had to operate without his starting quarterback until the second half of that schedule, but still continued to perform at his typical peak level.

With his long arms and burst of speed, Hodges has become a first-down favorite for new quarterback Jerod Evans. Seventeen of his eighteen catches this year have produced first downs

Release…Hodges uses his quickness and long arms to make sure a physical defender can not lock on in attempts to jam and reroute him. He has a quick initial burst to surprise a second level defender and will win most foot races vs. linebackers and safeties. He shows good urgency in his release off the line and rarely will you see him takes false steps.

Even vs. most cornerbacks, he has enough ability to get up field and the quickness to elude. In looking at 2015 tape (see Purdue and Duke games), you can see that he continues to improve in his ability to power through the jam, along with the quickness needed to create space and get out in the flats. He has a very good burst coming off the line and looks fluid when utilized as a “move” tight end, displaying loose hips and sharp plant-&-drive to turn and head up field. He runs with a good pad level and has had good success on rare chances to carry the ball out of the backfield (see 2015 Tulsa game).

Hodges has good quickness off the snap, but what earns him most of his success getting a clean release is that unlike most tall receivers, he knows how to keep his pads down and this helps him generate a better thrust off the snap. He is often lined wide and standing up, but he also shows that explosive burst when playing with his hand down and coming off the snap in the traditional tight end position. His speed in the open field creates mismatches for second level defenders and he is the type that needs to be accounted for, as he can easily ride up on and get behind a safety.

The thing you see on 2015 film (see Furman, East Carolina, Miami, Boston College and Duke games) is his ability to generate a quick thrust off the snap. He has the long reach and strong hand punch to power through the chuck and if a linebacker tries to hold him up, he has a strong enough hand jolt to put the man on the ground and get open. He can also lull a cornerback with his quickness and savvy, as he has loose hips and efficient head and shoulder fakes.

Acceleration…Hodges is a nice target for the quarterback, thanks to his balance and body control working through a crowd to find soft spots to settle under. He shows very good awareness to uncover and make plays in front of linebackers, then, using his leg drive and forward body lean to pick up extra yardage after the catch (hates it when one tackler is able to stop him). He has that receiver-like change of direction agility to escape good man coverage.

Hodges might not be used on deep patterns as often as he should (hopefully the new staff recognizes that ability), but he is aware of coverage and knowing where to find the soft areas. He has that natural ability to find ways to get open in time for the quarterback to deliver the ball to him and has become a valuable target over the middle and when used on drag patterns.

Hodges reminds me of Jimmy Graham, with the way he can ride up on a defender, execute a quick fake, plant-&-drive and break into the open. Like Graham, he is quite effective when lined out wide. When working in the short area, he does a nice job of dropping his weight and demonstrates proper foot work to gather, using his body well to box out. He is a nice target that has shown good agility when adjusting to the ball and is a pretty fluid runner on the move. He just seems to find ways to get open in time for the quarterback to deliver the ball to him.

With a 38-inch vertical jump, is it any wonder that Hodges has won more than 90% of his jump ball battles since becoming a tight end

Quickness…Hodges is one of the quicker pass catchers you will find at this position. He shows very good “get off” running his routes, even when aligned near the line of scrimmage. He also has that explosive burst to be a dangerous threat on the reverse when lining up in the backfield (see 2015 Tulsa game). The thing that he does best is generating the lateral range to escape and get up field (see 2015 East Carolina, Duke and Miami games).

In this day and age in the NFL, teams are looking for players like him to stretch the field, as he can flash to gain advantage and battles with very good intensity to escape the jam. He is an explosive mover when he gets a clean release and steps quickly to contact as a blocker while also getting off the line with a good burst as a receiver.

Hodges shows good quickness off the snap and into his routes (rarely drifted as a sophomore, working hard during the off-season to improve on his 2014 route running). He is also an alert position blocker with the quick-twitch movement skills to sustain and mirror. He displays good foot speed at the top of the route to set defenders up and separate.

Route Running…Hodges has been used in a variety of roles as a pass catcher, whether lining up in the back-field, positioning outside or coming off the snap in a traditional stance. His routes are crisp, as he shows the athletic ability and quickness to sink his hips and separate. He has the power to avoid being rerouted and does a nice job of using his hands to leverage defenders and separate with his array of moves. He is best served in the zone, where his quickness lets him take advantage of slower second level opponents, but he can also cause problems for cornerbacks on the rare times he runs deep patterns.

With his smooth running stride and change of direction skills, he has that flash ability to set defenders when working up the seam. He runs a lot of delays and drags, which does not give him much opportunity to challenge in man coverage, but he has that fine ability to know where he needs to be in order to create spacing. He is an athletic, instinctive player running routes and shows the ability to sink his hips and make sharp cuts. With his upper body strength, he will not have problems getting a clean release vs. the jam at the next level.

Despite quarterback issues, you could see that in 2015, Hodges can run a variety of routes, whether it is in the short area or getting into the deep secondary. He does a good job of changing direction and running tight routes in traffic. He easily fools second level defenders with his fakes and hip shake to elude after the catch and also is alert to soft areas on the field to settle under. He is a valid threat to take the ball up the seam and is adept at using his body to shield the ball from the defender. He has the quick feet to gather and get in and out of his cuts, thanks to savvy head fakes and ability to angle. The thing I like is the body control he shows when jabbing one direction and breaking off a route squarely.

Separation Ability…Few second level defenders and strong safeties can mirror Hodges once he is allowed to get into deep patterns (see 2015 Furman, East Carolina, Miami; 2014 Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh and Virginia games). He shows very good quickness at his position, using it to separate out of his cuts. He is alert to coverage and sinks his pads properly when settling in the zone’s soft spots. He might be a “hidden find” if he can get with a team that will allow him to use his quickness to separate down field, as he shown in limited opportunities that he can create space needed to make the big play. He has the valid speed to separate and threaten the deep part of the zone and will not hesitate to “throw down” a linebacker that gets in his way, doing a nice job of using his hands in attempts to get open after a strong push-off.

Hodges brings both power and quickness into his route running regimen. He uses his long stride to gobble up the cushion and get behind the defender, even though most teams will put a cornerback on him. When the defensive back becomes his assigned coverage, he has more than enough power to blast through arm tackles. He is one of those rare tight ends with the wide receiver’s ability to stretch the field. He uses his hands well to push off or throw down a linebacker in attempts to get open. He shows a smooth running stride that allows him to readily separate. He has the foot quickness and balance to get in and out of his cuts cleanly and knows how to use his hip shake and head/shoulder fakes to set up the defenders when trying to separate.

Ball Concentration…Hodges has shown marked improvement in this area as a sophomore, but there have been several times he has left the ball on the ground because he looks to turn and run before securing the pigskin (see 2015 East Carolina and North Carolina State games). He does play with true courage, as he will not hesitate to sacrifice himself in order to make the tough catch in a crowd, but will sometimes revert to body catching when he should be extending for the sphere.

Still, if this kid is ever affected going for the ball in traffic (blocks out the oncoming noise), I have yet to see it on game films. He loves combating for the ball in a crowd and more often than not, you will see on tape that he makes the catch with defenders hanging on to him. He shows no fear operating over the middle and does not hesitate to get combative with his hands when an opponent tries to physically bump him. He just needs to continue his development as a hands catcher than one who will rely upon his body.

Ball Adjustment…Hodges looks like a contortionist, at times, when he leaves his feet to twist and turn in order to get to off-target throws. He does a nice job of maintaining balance and body control on the move, along with being very conscious of keeping his feet in bounds working down the sidelines. He plays with effortless body control to reach and pluck the ball away from his frame (will revert to body catching at times, but has made steady improvement to reduce those issues). He also shows very good ability to position and make the catch underneath. He tracks the ball well over his outside shoulder, but while he has exceptional leaping ability, he is still learning when to jump with good timing. His basketball and track skills are evident in his attempts to make the tough catch in a variety of locations, though.

In 2015, Hodges saw the ball in flight much better than his rookie season, doing a good jog of tracking and adjusting to get under the throw. He has above average hand/eye coordination and soft hands to finish. He needs to stop using his body as a crutch when going for the ball, but in a crowd, he is fearless and willing to sacrifice his body. He is very alert to the pocket pressure, working back to the quarterback with good urgency. He shows no hesitation sacrificing his body when he needs to get to off-target passes. He can catch the ball outside his framework, but must be more consistent doing so.

When it comes to taking a hit after the catch, Hodges might be singing a Paul Simon song when he's zeroing in on the ball - I only have eyes for you

Leaping Ability…Hodges is a former basketball forward and track long jumper with the “hops” to elevate and extend in order to get to the ball at its high point (see 2015 Furman, East Carolina, Duke and Miami games). Yes, there are times when he will leave the ground too early, but you can see that he has the skills to take the second leap to get back in on the play. With his 34-inch arm length and 38-inch vertical jump, with more experience, I am confident that he will win more than his share of jump-ball opportunities. Overall, he has solid leaping ability, and is working hard to improve his timing to high point the ball. He gets good elevation from a standing position and has the long reach and large mitts for hands to look the ball in.

Hands…Hodges has soft hands and is working hard not to become the type that uses his body as a crutch, as most of his drops were the result of trying to turn up field before securing the ball. I really like the way he will extend to catch the ball outside his frame (see 2015 Furman, Miami, Duke and Georgia Tech games). His concentration lapses seemed to no longer be an issue in 2015, but this is still an area that is worth further evaluating before passing judgment.

As a sophomore, it appeared that he knew how to keep the ball off his body to make the catch and with those long arms, he certainly has the catching radius to reach and pluck the ball with ease. Do not judge him on using his body too often when working in a crowd. He will make some difficult catches going for off-target throws and has improved in areas for adjusting and positioning when facing the quarterback. He has the hand/eye coordination to snap his head around and catch the ball delivered to his outside shoulder. He is not the type that loses concentration with defenders closing in on him, but he has to make sure he has the ball secured better before turning and trying to head up field.

Run After the Catch…Hodges is a very good open field runner, with the loose hips and nifty spin moves to avoid second level defenders after the catch. He stays low in his pads with good forward body lean to get additional yardage after initial contact. He is used mostly in possession situations, which is unfortunate, as you can see he has more than enough quickness to stretch the field. He has more than enough size that you look for to push up field, along with impressive strength. He is the type that can make cornerbacks miss when tackling him, and he will make those smaller defenders pay for their attempts to bring him down one-on-one. He is very fluid running his patterns and has that natural ability to sink his hips and make crisp cuts without taking extra steps coming out of his breaks.

Hodges is just too much of a load for isolated defensive backs to bring down. The opposing linebackers are too slow to mirror him through the route’s progression. He shows good body lean moving forward in attempts to break arm tackles. He is a threat to stretch the seam and is best served when used on vertical patterns. He will make every effort to avoid, but when needed, he has the ability to power through an opponent, showing both quickness and a burst to escape.

Blocking Ability…This is possibly the most improved area of his game, as he seems to relish the thought of stalking second level defenders or mixing it up when going in motion to lead block and widen the rush lanes. Along with split end Isaiah Ford, the Tech receiving unit might be the best set of blockers in college at those skill positions. To put it mildly, Hodges is a vastly underrated blocker. In the second level, he seems to play with a “search and destroy” mentality (see 2015 East Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech and Tulsa games).

He shows good hand placement and a strong punch, along with the alertness to keep his hands inside his frame. Even when blocking in-line, he is not the type that will overextend and leave his feet behind. Earlier in his career, when he tried to reach, he would lose position late in the process. But now, he shows good explosion on contact, thanks to 25 additional pounds of muscle from the training room since he first arrived on campus in 2013. He plays with good intensity as a blocker and while many think that a player with his lack of experience can only be a wall-off and screen type, 26 touchdown-resulting blocks in his last 26 games indicates otherwise.

In pass protection, he knows how to maintain balance and shuffle his feet quickly in order to slide and mirror. For a 249-pounder, you have to be impressed with his strong anchor, along with the pop he generates behind his hand punch that will generally stop second level defenders in an instant. With his impressive strength, even much bigger defensive ends struggle in attempts to overpower him (see 2015 East Carolina, Duke and Tulsa games). He is very aggressive when making contact and plays with above average balance, leverage and effort to finish.

Hodges has the reach to keep defenders at bay when blocking in-line. As a freshman, there were times when he would get too upright in his stance, causing his base to narrow, resulting in him getting walked back into the pocket. Hard work during the off-season showed in the results, as he did a much better job of angling when blocking in space and was very alert to locating his assignment. He is equally comfortable getting into a second level defender on the move and when blocking for the running game. He also does a good job using his hands to stall edge rushers when blocking in pass protection.

Hodges can turn a short toss into a long gain, as 826 of his 1,313 yards receiving have come after the catch.

CAREER NOTES…Hodges has started 29-of-32 games at Virginia Tech, grabbing 103-of-167 targeted passes (61.68%) for 1,313 yards (12.75 ypc) and sixteen touchdowns…Also gained 79 yards on eighteen carries, reaching the end zone once…Scored again when he recovered a blocked kick in the end zone vs. Virginia in 2014.

School Career Records…Hodges is one of three Tech tight ends to gain at least 1,000 yards receiving (1,313) at the university, setting the position all-time record while joining Mike Burnop (1,141; 1970-72) and Steve Johnson (1,058; 1984-87)…His 103 catches broke the previous school position mark of 90 by Mike Burnop (1970-72)…His sixteen touchdown grabs set a new position record at Tech. The previous mark was twelve by Jeff King (2002-05)…On the overall record charts, Hodges is tied with Andre’ Davis (1998-2001) and Mike Giacolone (1979-82) for eleventh in Tech annals with 103 receptions. To date, only twelve players in school history have ever caught one hundred receptions…Also on the overall list, he is currently ranked 18th with 1,313 receiving yards…

His sixteen touchdowns are tied with Josh Morgan (2004-07) for sixth on the overall record list.

School Season Records-With forty receptions in 2015 and 45 in 2014, Hodges is the lone tight end in school history with multiple 40-catch seasons…His 45 receptions not only set the school freshman annual record (all positions), but also broke the position season-record of 38 by Steve Johnson in 1987…His seven touchdown catches in 2014 set the school season-record for tight ends, while his six scoring grabs in 2015 tied Jeff King (2005) for second on that position chart.

School Game Records-Hodges recorded three touchdown catches vs. Duke in 2015, setting the school position record…Isaiah Ford also had three touchdown grabs at split end during the 2015 campaign…The school game-record is four touchdowns, recorded by Ernest Wilford vs. Syracuse in 2002.

2016 SEASON…Hodges entered the season as one of the favorites to capture the John Mackey Award, given annually to the best tight end in college football…The consensus All-American and All-Atlantic Coast Conference preseason choice is regarded as the best athlete in the league and best at his position, according to The NFL Draft Report, a scouting information service that compiles information for the league…Through the team’s first six contests, Hodges has pulled down 18-of-24 passes targeted to him (75.00%) for 257 yards (14.28 ypc) and three touchdowns, adding 32 yards on six carries to amass 289 all-purpose yards while scoring eighteen points.

Hodges Statistical Breakdown…Hodges’ pass catching success rate (75.00% of targeted passes caught) currently leads the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision ranks starting tight ends (minimum fifteen targets)…Among his eighteen catches, seventeen produced first downs, including his opponents being charged with three pass interference calls…Defenders managed to deflect three passes away from the tight end, as Hodges dropped one toss and Virginia Tech quarterbacks mis-fired on three others…Converted 6-of-7 third-down chances, as twelve of his catches gained at least ten yards, including five for twenty yards or longer…On eight of his non-touchdown receptions, multiple defenders were needed to bring him down…Eight of his receptions were downed inside the red zone, including two near the goal line, but he also had two touchdown catches called back (one via an opponent penalty and the other ruled that he was downed at the 1-yard line)…In addition to his three scoring grabs, he had key receptions that set up three other touchdown drives and on one series that resulted in a field goal…Three of his six rushing attempts have produced first downs, helping to set up one touchdown drive and one field goal.

2016 SEASON GAME ANALYSIS

Liberty...New Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans threw for 221 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Hokies to a 36-13 season-opening victory over Liberty, handing head coach Justin Fuente his first victory. Fuente, who spent the previous four seasons at Memphis, took over in January for Frank Beamer, who retired after 29 years as Virginia Tech’s head coach. Evans, a junior-college transfer from Texas who enrolled this past January, completed 20 of 32 passes. The Hokies trailed 13-10 in the second quarter before Evans threw touchdown passes to Isaiah Ford and Hodges on the Hokies’ last two possessions of the first half to give the Hokies the lead for good…The tight end reached the end zone twice from three receptions for 42 yards, setting up his second score via a reverse…The team opened with three wide receivers, leaving Hodges to wait before he could make the most of his first opportunity to get his hands on the ball, as Jerod Evans fired a third-&-7 flag pass to his tight end for an 18-yard touchdown that capped an 8-play, 70-yard series with 0:24 remaining in the first half…Evans and Hodges connected again on a big third-down conversion toward the end of the first half. Hodges set up his next touch-down catch as he powered through several defenders during a rushing attempt for four yards to the Liberty 20. After the Flames’ weak-side linebacker Dexter Robbins was helped off the field after colliding with Hodges, Evans located his target and tossed another flag pass on third-&-6 to the tight end for a 20-yard third quarter score…Record Watch-Hodges’ three receptions increased his career total to 88, moving past Sidney Snell (1978-80) for 18th on the school overall record chart…The only tight end in Tech annals with more receptions during a career is Mike Burnop (90; 1970-72)…Hodges also improved his touchdown reception figure to fifteen, tying Snell for seventh on the overall Hokies record list and is the school career-record for tight ends (previous tight end mark was twelve by Jeff King; 2002-05)….Head to Head Competition-SS#14-Cam Jackson (6:01-209)-No tackles; FS#28-Corbin Jackson (6:00-203)-Seven tackles (4 solos)…Hodges Offensive Impact-The tight end caught 3-of-3 passes targeted to him (100.00%), as he scored twice via third-down plays, both coming on snaps inside the red zone. He also set up his second touchdown with a reverse. Two of his receptions were downed inside the red zone and he had a pair of grabs gain at least ten yards, including one for twenty yards or longer…Team Offensive Impact-Virginia Tech completed 25-of-41 passes (60.98%) for 252 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, as the team had three passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 458 yards on a total of 89 plays (5.15 yards per attempt).

Tennessee…Virginia Tech got off to a great start in its game against the Tennessee Volunteers, but turnovers and penalties turned out to be its undoing, as the Hokies fell to the Volunteers, 45-24, at Bristol Motor Speedway. The long-anticipated event drew a crowd of 156,990 fans and broke college football’s single-game attendance record, surpassing the 115,109 fans who witnessed Michigan and Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium in 2013. Hodges managed to grab three passes for 13 yards and toted the ball as a ball carrier four times. He was also in a heated battle with Vols defensive backs, as Tennessee’s dirty tactics would see their defenders flagged three times for pass interference on balls targeted to the tight end…A fierce pass rush saw Tech quarterback Jerod Evans flip the ball to Hodges in the backfield, but the Tennessee swarm tackled the tight end for a 5-yard loss. He then reeled off a 7-yard run in Tennessee territory during a 62-yard, 8-play series that ended when Evans found tailback Sam Rogers with a 7-yard scoring toss…After catching an 11-yard pass at the end of the first quarter, Hodges was twice mauled by Justin Martin and the referees twice called pass interference vs. the Tennessee cornerback. The second penalty was followed by a Hodges rushing attempt to the UT 11. The drive stalled and the Hokies would settle for a 26-yard field goal in the third stanza…Record Watch-Hodges’ three receptions increased his career total to 91, taking over the school record for tight ends. The previous career mark was 90 by Mike Burnop (90; 1970-72)…Head to Head Competition-SCB#23-Cameron Sutton (5:11-186)-Three solo tackles, one stop for a 5-yard loss, one pass deflection; WCB#8-Justin Martin (6:01-183)-Four tackles (2 solos)…Hodges Offensive Impact-The tight end caught 3-of-3 passes targeted to him (100.00%), including converting one third-down toss, as the opposition was flagged twice for pass interference and once for an illegal player vs. the tight end. One of his catches gained at least ten yards and another was downed inside the red zone. As a ball carrier, two of Hodges’ four carries produced first downs, leading to one field goal while setting up a touchdown drive…Team Offensive Impact-Virginia Tech completed 20-of-28 passes (71.43%) for 208 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, as the team had two passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 394 yards on a total of 73 plays (5.40 yards per attempt).

Boston College…It was back to strictly tight end duties for Hodges, as he collected four balls for 48 yards to help quarterback Jerod Evans tie a school record with five touchdowns passes. The Hokies’ defense recorded the team’s first shutout since 2012, as Virginia Tech blanked Boston College, 49-0, at Lane Stadium in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener…A 14-0 lead for the Hokies came late in the first quarter during a possession where Hodges caught all of his passes for the day. Three of his four grabs resulted in first downs, totaling 48 yards that included a pair of 17-yarders. Two of his catches were downed inside the red zone, including converting a third-&-2 Jerod Evans toss into a 9-yard first down at the BC 8. On the next play, Evans lobbed a flag pass to split end Isaiah Ford for the score…Record Watch-Hodges’ 48 yards increased his Tech total to 1,159 yards, 20th on the school’s overall chart and tops among all tight ends. Mike Burnop (1,141; 1970-72) was the previous tight end record-holder…Head to Head Competition-SS#8-William Harris (6:02-202)-Eight tackles (5 solos); FS#9-John Johnson (6:00-212)-Eight tackles (4 solos), one pass deflection, a 19-yard interception return…Hodges Offensive Impact-The tight end caught 3-of-6 passes targeted to him (50.00%), as he dropped one throw, a defender deflected away another attempt and the Tech quarterback misfired on another. He recorded one third down and had two catches that gained at least ten yards, along with coming up with key receptions that set up one touchdown drive. Two of his grabs were downed inside the red zone…Team Offensive Impact-Virginia Tech completed 16-of-27 passes (59.26%) for 253 yards, five touchdowns and one interception, as the team had one pass deflected away by the opposition, gaining 476 yards on a total of 77 plays (6.18 yards per attempt).

East Carolina…Hodges started his nineteenth consecutive game, the most for any of the current players on the roster, as he delivered on a pair of receptions for 47 yards. Quarterback Jerod Evans threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score, and the Hokies made three big plays on special teams, as they scuttled the East Carolina Pirates, 54-17, in a non-conference game… Hodges made a great catch, pulling the ball in with one hand before being sandwiched between two defenders on a 12-yard catch that led to Evans’ 24-yard touchdown toss to Isaiah Ford early in the second quarter…A 12-play, 89-yard third quarter Tech march stalled at the ECU 3-yard line, but not before Hodges secured a deep throw for a 35-yard first down…Record Watch-Hodges’ two grabs improved his Tech figures to 97 receptions, moving past Dyrell Roberts (96; 2008-2012) for 13th place on the school’s overall record chart…His 1,206 yards receiving pushed him past Carroll Dale (1,195; 1956-59) for 20th place in school history…Head to Head Competition-FS#3-Travon Simmons (5:10-187)-Eight tackles (3 solos); WILB#7-Jordan Williams (6:00-234)-Six tackles (one solo)…Hodges Offensive Impact-The tight end caught 2-of-2 passes targeted to him (100.0%), as he recorded two first downs. Both of his receptions gained at least ten yards, including one for twenty yards or longer, and he had a clutch catch that led to a Tech touchdown drive…Team Offensive Impact-Virginia Tech completed 15-of-23 passes (65.22%) for 295 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, as the team had no passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 462 yards on a total of 78 plays (5.92 yards per attempt).

North Carolina...Playing in a downpour courtesy of Hurricane Matthew quarterback Jerod Evans threw two touchdown passes but was only successful in reaching his tight end once. However, Hodges turned that lone opportunity into a key play to set up one of those scoring drives, along with baiting his opponent into a crucial pass interference charge…On the game’s second play from scrimmage, Evans connected with Hodges, but the catch was ruled out of bounds…A third-&-7 toss to Hodges was deflected later in the first frame…Just before halftime, Hodges made a sensational catch-&-run that appeared to be good for six points, but a review of the play ruled that he was down at the 1-yard line. On the next play, Evans simply lobbed the ball to freshman tight end Chris Cunningham for a touchdown that staked the Hokies to a 13-3 lead…Head to Head Competition-SS#15-Donnie Miles (5:11-209)-Eleven tackles (3 solos), 1.5 stops for minus two yards…Hodges Offensive Impact-The tight end caught 1-of-3 passes targeted to him (33.33%), as the opposition deflected one toss and Tech quarterbacks misfired on another. He recorded two first downs (one via a pass interference call), converting a third-down attempt, as he had one catch for at least twenty yards that was a key play on a touchdown drive…Team Offensive Impact-Virginia Tech completed 7-of-17 passes (41.18%) for 75 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, as the team had five passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 264 yards on a total of 83 plays (3.18 yards per attempt).

Syracuse…With quarterback Jerod Evans throwing for a career-best 307 yards in a 31-17 loss to Syracuse, Hodges was the recipient of a season-best five receptions for 79 yards, as he also reached the end zone via a catch…The loss could be traced back to the offense failing to capitalize on big plays from their tight end…A first quarter 20-yard grab resulted in the team stalling on that drive, doing so again after he converted a third-&-9 throw into a 16-yard first down in the second stanza…He added a first down on a carry, only to see Evans picked off during that third quarter drive…The savvy pass catcher worked his way back to a poorly thrown ball from Evans, somehow managing to adjust and get under the ball for a 27-yard gain deep into Syracuse territory in the fourth quarter. That 8-play, 66-yard drive would end when Evans found Hodges on second-&-goal for a 10-yard touchdown…Hodges kept a last ditch scoring drive alive with another catch for a first down, but Evans turned the ball over on the next snap and Syracuse ran out the final 4:08 on the game clock…Record Watch-The school’s position record holder, Hodges improved his career totals to 103 receptions for 1,313 yards and sixteen touchdowns, becoming the twelfth player in Tech annals to record one hundred receptions during a career…On the school’s overall record lists, he moves into an 11th place tie with Andre Davis (1998-01) and Mike Giacolone (1979-82) with 103 catches...His 1,313 yards receiving moved him to 18th all-time, topping Jimmy Quinn (1,262; 1969-1971) and Sidney Snell (1,274; 1978-80)…His sixteenth touchdown catch as a Hokie tied Josh Morgan (2004-07) for sixth in school history…Head to Head Competition-SS#19-Daivon Ellison (5:08-177)-Eleven tackles (10 solos), one pass deflection; CB#28-Christopher Fredrick (5:11-189)-Four solo tackles…Hodges Offensive Impact-The tight end caught 5-of-6 passes targeted to him (83.33%), as Tech quarterbacks misfired on one throw. He recorded five first downs and converted one third-down throw. Four of his catches gained at least ten yards, including two for twenty yards or longer, and he had a clutch catch that resulted in a Tech touchdown drive. On two of his non-touchdown catches, multiple defenders were needed to bring him down…Team Offensive Impact-Virginia Tech completed 20-of-33 passes (60.61%) for 307 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, as the team had one pass deflected away by the opposition, gaining 468 yards on a total of 72 plays (6.50 yards per attempt).

2015 SEASON…Hodges started all thirteen games, as the All-Atlantic Coast Conference second-team selection by the league’s coaches logged action in 691 snaps, including 684 with the offensive unit and seven more on special teams…The former high school quarterback finished third on the team after catching 40-of-69 targeted tosses (57.97%) for 530 yards (13.25 ypc) with six touchdowns, as he added 27 yards on five carries that included another score (most while lining up as a quarterback under center)…His forty grabs rank third on the school season-record chart for tight ends and he became the only player at his position to record multiple seasons with at least forty receptions…The fourth-team All-American selection recorded 24 first downs (60% of his catches), converting 9-of-19 third-down tosses and 3-of-4 fourth-down pass plays…In addition to his six scoring grabs, he had key receptions that led to six other touchdown drives and on four series that resulted in field goals…Nineteen of his catches gained at least ten yards (47.5%), including nine for twenty yards or longer (22.5%)…Caught ten passes that were downed inside the red zone, including two on goal-line plays and broke free from multiple defenders on seven run-&-catch situations… Penalized twice (vs. North Carolina State for a false start and vs. North Carolina for holding) and fumbled once (Boston College)…Suffered a bruised quadriceps muscle in the second half vs. Furman, but returned to start the following week.

2015 SEASON GAME ANALYSIS

Furman…Coming off a short week and playing a quarterback who came into the season as the backup left Virginia Tech fans feeling that disaster loomed on the horizon, but with help from his sophomore tight end, Brenden Motley took away those doubts. Making his first collegiate start, Motley threw two touchdown passes and rushed for a touchdown to lead the Hokies past Furman 42-3…Motley started in place of injured Michael Brewer, who broke his collarbone in the Hokies’ Monday night loss to top-rated Ohio State and he would join Michael Brewer (2014) and Grant Noel (2001) as the only Virginia Tech quarterbacks under head coach Frank Beamer to throw for more than 200 yards, two touchdowns and not get sacked in his first career start…On Tech's first offensive play of the football game, the Hokies ran a smash route concept (quick curl by Hodges designed to draw up the corner and a corner route by Ford) to the field side, with double in routes to the boundary. The corner stood glued to Hodges, so after a small shoulder fake to freeze the safety Motley moved to his second progression in slpit end Isaiah Ford. Ford broke outside under the deep safety. On the next play, Motley faked a “jet sweep” before locating Hodges streaking into the middle of the open field. He hit his tight end in stride, with Hodges eluded several Paladins defenders before being tackled at the Furman 31-yard line. That late first quarter drive would end early in the second stanza, as Motley tucked the ball and ran the final four yards into the end zone for a touchdown to cap an 8-play, 88-yard march…Head to Head Competition-SS#31-Byron Johnson (6:02-231)-Ten tackles (7 solos), two QB pressures…Hodges Offensive Impact-The tight end caught 2-of-3 targeted passes (66.67%) for 48 yards, as he recorded one first down, with one reception gaining at least twenty yards, setting up one touchdown drive while catching one pass inside the red zone…Team Offensive Impact-Virginia Tech completed 19-of-31 passes (61.29%) for 284 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, as the team had three passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 583 yards on a total of 72 plays (8.10 yards per attempt).

Purdue…After having a great 2014 season, Hodges had plenty of hype surrounding him as one of college football’s best tight ends while also being named to the 2015 Preseason All-ACC Team. However, Hodges has not had the start that he likely hoped for, mostly due to the absence of injured starting quarterback Michael Brewer. Through two games, the tight end only had two catches for 48 yards with both of those catches coming against Furman. Hodges has also had a couple of drops to start the season, and hadn’t been able to get open as much with teams seeming to focus on him more. However, Hodges seemed like someone that is one big game away from taking off, and while his yardage totals vs. the Boilermakers might not stand out (11 yards), the results spoke volumes (two touchdowns) in this 51-24 victory…Purdue recognized that it did not have great size in the secondary, which made covering Hodges a lot harder, so they assigned two players to trail him. He managed just three catches, but he was still a matchup nightmare, and made a big impact for the Hokies against Purdue…With the team lining up three tight ends, Purdue was expecting Tech to run the ball, as they were three yards away from the end zone, but quarterback Brenden Motley took the snap and lobbed the ball up high into the left corner of the end zone. Hodges jostled with Frankie Williams before extending over the right cornerback to pull the ball in for a 3-yard second quarter touchdown. Williams was also flagged for defensive holding on the play that ended a 75-yard drive…

With the ball again on the three-yard line, Motley sent Hodges into motion as the quarterback rolled right and hit his tight end just in the end zone for Hodges’ second touchdown for the day. The Tech tight end also crashed into Purdue’s Marcus Bailey on the play, forcing the strong-side linebacker to leave the contest with an injury and not return…Dating back to 1996, Tech is 40-3 on the road when scoring 30-plus points, including a 12-0 mark vs. non-conference foes, while Purdue is 8-25 at home since the start of the 2000 campaign when allowing 30 points or more…“We had a great game plan,” Motley said. “We knew what we wanted to do coming in. Our line did a good job against these guys and protected me all game. The backs ran the ball well. That helped out a lot, and the receivers made plays. It was a good team win.”…For the second straight week, the Hokies went over 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing with 238 rushing and 238 passing vs. Purdue. Under head coach Frank Beamer, Tech is 40-5 in such games…Head to Head Competition-SOLB#29-Jimmy Herman (6:04-230)-Four tackles (3 solos); SS#3-Leroy Clark (5:10-199)-Eleven tackles (8 solos)…Hodges Offensive Impact-The tight end caught 3-of-4 passes targeted to him (75.00%), as one pass was deflected by the opposition. He recorded two first downs, converting one third-down toss, as he downed all three catches inside the red zone, with two recorded as touchdowns on goal-line snaps… Team Offensive Impact-Virginia Tech completed 16-of-26 passes (61.54%) for 233 yards, two touch-downs and no interception, as the team had two passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 471 yards on a total of 82 plays (5.74 yards per attempt).

East Carolina…In a 35-28 loss, Hodges collected five balls for 73 yards, but had a 22-yard scoring grab nullified when another Hokie was flagged for a false start on the play. The team then tried to kick a 37-yard field goal, but the second quarter attempt was wide right…Tech had two more chances to score in the final five minutes. One drive ended when Hodges couldn’t corral a fourth-down pass from quarterback Brenden Motley that would have given the Hokies a first down in ECU territory. The final chance came at the end of the game when Tech got the ball to its 41 and tried a “Hail Mary” that fell incomplete. Motley led the Hokies with 366 of their 439 yards of offense…The young quarterback dropped back to pass, but almost had his toss picked off. An alert Hodges went over the defender to pull the ball in along the left sidelines, eluding four other Pirates before he was tackled in the middle of the field. That would set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Sam Rogers to conclude a 9-play, 75-yard third quarter series…Head to Head Competition-SOLB#51-Montese Overton (6:03-221)-Six tackles (3 solos)…Hodges Offensive Impact-The tight end caught 3-of-5 passes targeted to him (60.00%), as he dropped one fourth-down pass. He recorded three first downs, converting another fourth-down throw, as two grabs were good for at least ten yards, including one for twenty yards or longer…He set up one touchdown via a reception and had another catch that was downed inside the red zone…Team Offensive Impact-Virginia Tech completed 20-of-35 passes (57.14%) for 281 yards, one touchdown and one interception, as the team had three passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 439 yards on a total of 77 plays (5.70 yards per attempt).

Pittsburgh…Pittsburgh rushed for 166 yards and its defense held the Hokies in check for much of the game, enabling the Panthers to knock off Virginia Tech 17-13 in the ACC opener for both schools. The win marked just Pittsburgh’s second in Blacksburg – the other one came in 2002 – and sent the Hokies to their second straight loss. Hodges was held to two catches on four targets, picking up 42 yards in the process…Tech finished with only 100 yards of total offense, including just nine rushing. Quarterback Brenden Motley was sacked seven times, and he completed 9-of-20 for 91 yards, with a touchdown and three interceptions. “We’re not going to stay where we are,” Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “We’re going to look at personnel and look carefully at how we do some coaching. We’re not going to stay where we are. We’re not executing, and we’re not playing the way we need to play.”…Free safety Terrish Webb was flagged for pass interference after trying to decapitate Hodges on a toss from Brenden Motley that he tried to loop to the big tight end near the right sidelines, but the quarterback went back to his target on third-&-17, hitting Hodges over the middle, as the tight end barreled into several Panthers defenders to convert that third-&-17 reception into a 28-yard first down at the Pittsburgh 12. Motley then threw a post pass to receiver Cam Phillips for an 11-yard touchdown to conclude a 12-play, 83-yard second quarter drive…A third quarter screen pass to the tight end saw Hodges pick up 14 yards near midfield, setting up an early fourth quarter 48-yard Tech field goal after Pittsburgh’s defensive tackle Darryl Render was flagged for a personal foul on a pass attempt to Hodges during that series…Head to Head Competition-SS#2-Terrish Webb (5:11-197)-Four tackles, a 9-yard interception return, one pass deflection…Hodges Offensive Impact-The tight end caught 2-of-4 passes targeted to him (50.00%), as he recorded two first downs, converting one on a third-down snap, as two grabs were good for at least ten yards, including one for twenty yards or longer. He set up one touchdown via a reception and had another catch that set up a field goal, along with downing two catches inside the red zone…Team Offensive Impact-Virginia Tech completed 9-of-20 passes (45.00%) for 91 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, as the team had three passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 100 yards on a total of 53 plays (1.89 yards per attempt).

Duke…Perhaps Hodges was thinking of that early 1960s song by The Angels for his own version called “My Quarterback’s Back” and you're gonna be in trouble, as Michael Brewer and Hodges were in tremendous sync in a heart-breaking 45-43 four-overtime loss. The duo connected on three touchdown tosses, a school game-record for a tight end, as the sophomore collected five balls for his first 100-yard performance (101) as a Hokie…With the loss, Tech fell to 3-5 overall, 1-3 in the ACC. “It’s tough,” Tech quarterback Michael Brewer said. “I don’t know that I’ve been part of a more heartbreaking loss than this. Coming back from injury, just talking to the team all week, telling the offense how well we’re going to play, then to come out and play well on offense … and we played well on offense. We had 400-some yards against the No. 4 defense in the country. That’s something to take into next week.”…It was as if All-ACC strong safety Jeremy Cash was frozen for an instant, long enough for him to observe Hodges fly by the Blue Devil, pull in a pass along the left sideline and scoot through several defenders before being stopped for a 36-yard gain. The tight end would finish off that 78-yard, 6-play first quarter drive when Michael Brewer, returning as the team’s starting quarterback after being injured early in the year, found Hodges on third-&-4 with a 16-yard touchdown toss. The tight end again beat Cash on the play, dragging the strong safety and free safety Deondre Singleton into the end zone for the score…With the Hokies concerned about Cash, Hodges just told his quarterback to look for his jersey. He fired off the snap, hitting Cash along the way, as Singleton rolled over to cover the tight end, but despite trying to get to the ball, Singleton was no match for Hodges’ strength, as the tight end sent the safety sprawling for his second touch-down for the day on a 23-yard fourth-&-2 pass play. To add injury to insult, Singleton was not only flagged for pass interference on the play, but he injured his neck when he flipped over himself after Hodges collided with him at the goal line. The 12-play, 83-yard drive with 2:07 left in regulation knotted the score at 24-all, sending the game into overtime, where Hodges would continue his pass catching exploits…On third-&-6 in double-overtime, Brewer’s post pass was caught by Hodges for an 11-yard score, The quarterback had returned to action after missing most of the season with a left collarbone fracture and on the play prior to his touchdown pass, he suffered a left forearm injury. Banged up, he still located Hodges along the wide side hash. The tight end had left Cash grabbing at air along the line of scrimmage and pulled the ball in while surrounded by Singleton and fellow safety, DeVon Edwards. It would be Hodges’ third touchdown catch for the day, a feat no other Virginia Tech tight end has ever accomplished. In fact, only one player in school annals has ever had more touchdown receptions in a contest than Hodges’ three-touchdown performance…Record Watch-Hodges not only recorded his first 100-yard receiving performance as a Hokie, his three touchdown receptions set a school game-record for tight ends. On the overall record chart, the only Tech player to catch more passes for touchdowns in a contest was Ernest Wilford, who reached the end zone four times vs. Syracuse in 2002. Prior to that effort, the previous record was three scoring snatches by Antonio Freeman vs. Temple in 1993…Head to Head Competition-SS#16-Jeremy Cash (6:02-205)-Eleven tackles (5 solos), a 13-yard sack, 2.5 stops for minus 17 yards and a pass break-up; WOLB#40-Dwayne Norman (6:-1-217)-Nine tackles (2 solos) and two pass deflections…Hodges Offensive Impact-The tight end caught 5-of-9 passes targeted to him (55.56%), as the opposition deflected one of those attempts. He recorded five first downs, converting two third-down snaps and another on a fourth-down play. Five of his catches were good for at least ten yards, including two for twenty yards or longer. Two of his receptions were downed inside the red zone and he scored three touchdowns…Team Offensive Impact-Virginia Tech completed 24-of-47 passes (51.06%) for 270 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, as the team had five passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 452 yards on a total of 100 plays (4.52 yards per attempt).

Georgia Tech…Hodges added another three receptions for 31 yards as Virginia Tech used great defense and a timely touchdown in the fourth quarter to rally from a 14-0 deficit and knock off Georgia Tech, 23-21. Following the game, a huge throng of Virginia Tech fans in the corner of the stands started chanting, “Beamer, Beamer, Beamer” in honor of longtime head coach Frank Beamer, who announced that he was retiring at the end of this season. In the locker room afterward, the team presented Beamer with the special teams game ball – and he broke out some dancing moves. “I’ve said many times that this is a business, and that man, what he’s done for the university, has been outstanding,” Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. “The thing I feel for the most is the people that have been around the most and what they’ve done to contribute and help Virginia Tech and our department, and our kids. I’m really excited for our head coach and our kids. We’re going to find a way to go out and send him out the right way.”…Nickel back Lawrence Austin bounced off the big tight end as Hodges pulled in a 13-yard pass from Michael Brewer that was followed by the quarterback hitting All-ACC receiver Isaiah Ford with a 17-yard touchdown pass on the next snap to end a 10-play, 76-yard march just before halftime…Tech took the lead late in the fourth quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run by Travon McMillian that was set up when Georgia Tech nickel back Lawrence Austin interfered on a pass targeted to Hodge that placed the ball at the Yellow Jackets’ 9-yard line with 6:58 left in the contest…Head to Head Competition-NB#20-Lawrence Austin (5:09-199)-Five tackles (4 solos)…Hodges Offensive Impact-The tight end caught 3-of-6 passes targeted to him (50.00%), as he recorded two first downs, converting one third-down snap. Two of his catches were good for at least ten yards, including one for twenty yards or longer. One of his receptions helped set up a touchdown drive…Team Offensive Impact-Virginia Tech completed 15-of-29 passes (51.72%) for 178 yards, one touchdown and one interception, as the team had six passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 343 yards on a total of 68 plays (5.04 yards per attempt).

North Carolina…Behind six receptions for 44 yards by Hodges that resulted in a field goal and a touchdown, Virginia Tech rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game, but the Hokies couldn’t quite overcome North Carolina, falling 30-27 in overtime to the Tar Heels in what marked the final home game of Tech head coach Frank Beamer’s coaching career…Hodges out-wrestled strong safety Donnie Miles to pull in a third-&-5 10-yard post pass from Michael Brewer, but the second quarter drive stalled and Tech settled for a 32-yard field goal…In the third frame, Michael Brewer tried to connect with his tight end, but cornerback Des Lawrence was flagged for pass interference, setting up Brewer’s 3-yard touchdown scoot that capped a 10-play, 81-yard march…On fourth-&-7 with 2:54 left in the contest, the Hokies’ last ditch possession saw Brewer find his tight end going over the top of free safety Sam Smiley to bring the ball down in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown…Record Watch-Hodges’ touchdown was the thirteenth of his career, breaking the previous school career-record list for tight ends (twelve by Jeff King; 2002-05)…Head to Head Competition-NB#6-M.J. Stewart (5:11-211)-Four tackles (3 solos), one interception…Hodges Offensive Impact-The tight end caught 6-of-6 passes targeted to him (100.0%), as he recorded two first downs, converting one third-down snap. One of his catches was good for at least twenty yards. One pass interference call vs. UNC helped set up a touchdown drive, as Hodges also scored and had a key catch that led to a field goal…Team Offensive Impact-Virginia Tech completed 20-of-35 passes (57.14%) for 273 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, as the team had five passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 403 yards on a total of 82 plays (4.91 yards per attempt).

Virginia…Hodges made three catches for 34 yards as Tech kicker Joey Slye hit a field goal with 1:38 remaining, and safety Chuck Clark sealed the game with an interception in the final minute to lift the Hokies past in-state rival Virginia, 23-20, in the regular-season finale for both teams…Tech’s offense struggled for much of the afternoon and only finished with 304 yards, but 134 of that came in the fourth quarter when the Hokies amassed 17 points to rally past the Cavaliers...On a past pattern, Hodges blew past strong safety Kelvin Rainey to pull the third-&-5 toss in for a 16-yard first down, but the game-opening drive would stall, bringing out the Tech kicking unit for a 48-yard field goal…Record Watch-Hodges’ 34 receiving yards gave him 1,018 for his career, joining Mike Burnop (1,141; 1970-72) and Steve Johnson (1,058; 1984-87) as the only Tech tight ends to ever gain 1,000 yards receiving in a career.

Tulsa (Independence Bowl)...While not used in the wildcat formation during the regular season, the coaches brought out a “new wrinkle” by having the nearly 6:07 tight end handle that role, rewarding the staff by running for one touchdown, along with catching four passes as Tech downed Tulsa, 55-52, in a record-setting performance. The win marked the final one for Frank Beamer, who decided in November to retire at the conclusion of this season after 29 seasons as the Hokies’ head coach. Tech’s players doused Beamer as he walked across the field to shake the hands of Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery. Beamer finished his career with 280 coaching victories, including 238 at Tech. The win also marked the 11th bowl win for Beamer, who won three of his final four bowl games. The win – Tech’s fourth in the final five games of the season – enabled the Hokies to extend their streak of winning seasons to 23 straight. They finished 7-6 overall…Tech set a school record for points in a bowl game and total offense (598) in a bowl game, among the many records set in what turned out to be the highest-scoring Independence Bowl in history…Hodges caught the Tulsa defense napping, as he lined up under center, took the snap and raced around the left end and into the end zone from 16 yards out and a 31-21 second quarter lead before the Golden Hurricane could realize what happened. Replay shows the former prep quarterback simply explode out of the backfield once he went to a quick count and took the snap…Another running play out of wildcat formation did not get the same touchdown results as his previous attempt, but Hodges did pick up five yards and a first down when he was tackled at the Tulsa 1-yard line. Trey Edmunds then ended that 15-play, 81-yard third quarter drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to extend the Hokies’ lead to 51-32 at the start of second half action… “The offensive line played great,” quarterback Michael Brewer said. “We told them there at the beginning of the game that, if we could keep getting big chunks in the run game, then it would open things up and make it easier in pass protection. We felt like if we could get some time – Isaiah and Bucky [Hodges], in particular – then we could get them open down the field. You saw that.”…Record Watch-Hodges closed out the season with 85 catches, short of the school position mark of 90 catches by Mike Burnop (1970-72), topping Steve Johnson (84; 1984-87) for second place on that chart…Head to Head Competition-STAR#38-Matt Linscott (6:01-212)-Eleven tackles (6 solos)…Hodges Offensive Impact-The tight end caught 4-of-8 passes targeted to him (50.00%), as the opposition deflected one attempt. He recorded one first down, as one of his catches was good for at least ten yards, recording one touchdown on a running play…Team Offensive Impact-Virginia Tech completed 23-of-38 passes (60.53%) for 344 yards, one touchdown and one interception, as the team had five passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 598 yards on a total of 81 plays (7.38 yards per attempt).

2014 SEASON…Hodges was a Freshman All-American selection by The NFL Draft Report and USA Today…The NFL Draft Report also accorded him second-team All-ACC recognition, while the coaches placed him on the third-team…In his first season with the varsity, Hodges started ten of the thirteen games he appeared in, coming off the bench vs. William & Mary, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest…Set the school position record and the school freshman mark (all positions), as he caught 45-of-74 passes targeted to him (60.81%) for 526 yards, as his seven touchdowns broke the previous Tech tight end annual record of six by Jeff King in 2005…Operating out of the wildcat, he carried seven times for 20 yards and scored vs. Virginia when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone…Recorded twenty-one downs while converting 9-of-21 third-down plays…Five of his catches came on goal-line snaps and six receptions were downed inside the red zone…In addition to his eight scores (seven as a receiver, one on special teams), he had key receptions that led to three other touchdown drives and two possessions that produced field goals…Seventeen of his catches gained at least ten yards, including eight for twenty yards or longer.

2013 SEASON…Hodges red-shirted while working with the scout team as both a quarterback and tight end…Moved to tight end in October after he bench pressed 315 pounds and posted a 365-pound front squat in fall scout team max testing…He improved those numbers in spring testing, posting a 325-pound bench press, a 400-pound front squat, a 315-pound power clean and a 300-pound push jerk…Made the permanent move to tight end for the spring and earned the Coaches Award for the offense for his exceptional session.

INJURY REPORT…2015 Season…Hodges missed part of the second half vs. Furman with a quadriceps muscle bruise.

AGILITY TESTS…4.67 in the 40-yard dash…1.64 10-yard dash…2.69 20-yard dash…4.37 20-yard shuttle…11.93 60-yard shuttle…7.09 three-cone drill…38-inch vertical jump…9’-10” broad jump…365-pound bench press; 340-pound push jerk; 355-pound power clean; 450-pound squat…34-inch arm length…10-inch hands…81 1/8-inch wingspan.

HIGH SCHOOL…Hodges attended Salem (Virginia Beach, Va.) High School, playing football for head coach Robert Jackson…Led the team to an 8-4 record in 2010, scoring eight times on 102 carries that netted 438 yards, along with connecting on 59.8% of his passes (119-0f-199) for 1,602 yards and thirteen more scores….Continued to show off his running skills during an 10-2 2011 campaign that saw him add nine more touchdowns to his total. He completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,142 yards and 26 touchdowns, with six interceptions, as the Sundevils finished the 2012 schedule with a 10-2 overall record, including a 9-1 record in the region….As a senior, he connected on 126-of-206 passes (61.17%) for 2,214 yards, with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for 505 yards and eleven more scores, as the Salem QB earned All-Eastern Region, All-Tidewater, All-757 and All-Beach District accolades in 2013…Listed as the 171st-best overall player in the country, the tenth-best pro-style quarter-back in the prep ranks and the tenth-best athlete in the state of Virginia by Rivals.com. He was ranked 179th in the nation by Prep Star and the fourth-best prospect in the state by The Roanoke Times. Super Prep regarded him as the state’s fifth-best player while 247Sports considered him to be Virginia’s seventh-best athlete and the fourth-best dual-threat quarterback in the country. ESPN Recruiting Nation’s 14th-ranked player added ESPN300 honors in 2013. The Super Prep preseason All-American closed out his prep career after participating in the Offense-Defense All-America Bowl.

He also lettered in basketball, averaging ten points and seven rebounds per game during his first season on the varsity…During the 2011-12 hoops season, he played in 21 games after the gridiron schedule concluded, blocking ten shots as he averaged 10.1 points per game, making 77-of-171 field goals and 36-of-67 free throws. He pulled down 168 rebounds (8.0 avg), handed out 45 assists and had fifteen steals.

Hodges also excelled in track, performing for both the indoor and outdoor teams, as he tried his hand in the 100m, 200m, 300m and 400-meter dashes, the discus, high jump and triple jump…As a member of the 2011 indoor team, he recorded a 42.25-second mark in the 300 meters at SNU’s High School Winter Frolic, where he also posted a high jump mark of five feet/four inches. At the Atlantic Coast Invitational, he recorded a high jump of 34 feet/4.5 inches…During the 2011 outdoor season, he finished second in the triple jump (38 feet/two inches) at the Tallwood Meet and tossed the discus (74 feet/four inches) at The Fork Outdoor Invitational. At that event, he was also a member of the school’s 4x100 relay team that captured the title with a time of 49.13…In 2012, Hodges finished third in the 100 meters (11.28) at the Beach District – Salem, Princess Anne at First Colonial outdoor event, adding a second place mark of 23.32 in the 200 meters while finishing second in the 400 meters (52.86). His 4x100 relay team was also runner-up at that event with a time of 43.79. CNU’s 28th Annual High School Captains Classic was where he helped the 4x400 relay team finish at 3:41.15.

PERSONAL…Hodges is majoring in Human Development…The son of Kimberly Thompson and Temuchin Hodges, he was born Temuchin Hodges on 8/08/95 in Virginia Beach, Virginia…Goes by his nickname “Bucky.”

The NFL Draft Report's "Catch A Rising Star" Series - East Carolina's Zay Jones Soaring To New Heights As College's Busiest Receiver


The son of former NFL linebacker Robert Jones, Zay has been very busy during his senior season and is currently on pace to catch 168 balls in 2016. The NCAA record is 155 grabs by Fred Barnes of Bowling Green in 2009

ISAIAH “Zay” AVERY JONES      Wide Receiver/Return Specialist                      East Carolina University Pirates       #7                       6:01.7-193                  Austin, Texas      Stephen F. Austin High School

The consummate team player, Jones toiled as the Pirates’ slot receiver for three seasons, doing most of the “grunt” work for an offense that recorded 110 touchdowns during his first thirty-eight appearances as a collegian. While Justin Hardy basked in the limelight, most of his 35 scoring grabs were thanks to Jones serving as the “table setter.”

On those 110 trips to the end zone, Jones accounted for fifteen of those numbers by himself. However, he also had key receptions that led to forty-two other touchdown drives and during fourteen other possessions that resulted in field goals. With his Velcro-like hands (just one drop during his career), he leads all active college players by securing 77.94% of the passes targeted to him (325-of 417). With Hardy out of the picture the last two years, Jones has delivered 182 receptions through eighteen contests, an average of 10.11 receptions per game. The only major college player to average better during a two-year span was Manny Hazard of Houston (10.48 per game; 220 in 21 contests).

With Hardy trying to hold on to an NFL job, Jones has gone on to have an outstanding senior season. At his current pace, he could secure 168 passes during the regular twelve-game schedule. The NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision record is 155 by Freddie Barnes of Bowling Green in 2009, and he needed thirteen contests to reach that level. Jones is averaging 14.0 receptions per game this season and if he can maintain that level, it would top the present NCAA record average of 13.4 catches by Howard Twilley of Tulsa in 1965.

One could only imagine how much more successful Jones could have been, if not for the constant shuffling at quarterback by the Pirates during his junior season. Upon further view of the seventy passes that he failed to get to, Pirates passers misfired on 32 of those attempts and another sixteen were thrown under duress (pressures). While Jones has won more than 75% of his jump ball battles, erratic tosses led to the opposition deflecting twenty-one of those pass attempts before the university legacy could get to the ball.

The former staff seemed to rely on Jones more for his tough pass catching ability in traffic and occasions where he disrupted the defense from “wildcat” formation, rather than give him consistent opportunities to stretch the field. That would soon change under the new coaching regime in 2016. Imported from Duke is their former receiver standout, Scottie Montgomery, who took over the reigns for his first head coaching job. The first thing the new mentor did was to contact Jones, who was recovering from left shoulder surgery.

With new head coach Scottie Montgomery, a former receiver at Duke, Jones was promised a bigger role in 2016. Little did he realize it would involve catching a nation-leading 84 passes through six games, an average of 14.0 grabs per game. The current NCAA record is 13.4 catches per game by Howard Twilley of Tulsa in 1965

The master plan for 2016 was to make the former slot receiver the go-to wide-out. He was first scheduled to shift to flanker for his final season, but he opened the campaign at the “X” receiver (split end) spot. The unquestioned team leader, the senior was not able to play during spring drills while recovering, so, he took off his helmet and picked up a clipboard. If the young receivers absorbed even a fraction of what Jones was trying to explain during those skull sessions on the sidelines, the Pirates will certainly return to the bowl season after their one-year absence in 2015.

Through the early part of the 2016 season, Jones has pulled down 84-of-106 passes targeted to him (79.25%) for 840 yards and three touchdowns, as he had key grabs to set up eight more touchdown drives and six possessions that resulted in field goals. He’s registered 54 first downs from those catches, including his conversion of fifteen third-down tosses and five more on fourth down. Forty of his receptions have gained at least ten yards.

FOOTBALL AS THE FAMILY BUSINESS

Zay's father, Robert Jones, was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round (24th overall) of the 1992 NFL Draft, becoming the first player from East Carolina University to be drafted that high.

One of three sons of Maneesha and Robert Jones, Isaiah’s father is still the only consensus All-American first-team selection in East Carolina University history. Robert was a Butkus Award finalist at East Carolina (1989-91) before spending ten seasons in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys (1992-95), St. Louis Rams (1996-97), Miami Dolphins (1998-2000) and Washington Redskins (2001). He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 1992 NFL Draft, becoming the first player from East Carolina University to be drafted that high.

The Cowboys moved Ken Norton Jr. to outside linebacker, allowing him to become the second rookie (Eugene Lockhart) in Cowboys history to start at middle linebacker, and the second rookie (Lee Roy Jordan) linebacker in franchise history to start in a season-opener. He helped the Cowboys establish the top defense in the league in 1992, was named NFC Rookie of the Year and was selected to the NFL all-rookie team.

In 1994, Jones had the best year of his career, going on to be selected to the Pro Bowl, after registering 162 tackles (then the fourth-highest single season total in Cowboys history) and four passes defended while starting all 16 games at middle linebacker. During his four seasons with the Cowboys, Jones helped the Cowboys win Super Bowl XXVII, Super Bowl XXVIII and Super Bowl XXX.

At East Carolina, Robert was also teammates with his brother-in-low. Isaiah’s uncle, Jeff Blake, was a quarterback at East Carolina (1988-91) and finished seventh in the 1991 Heisman Trophy balloting. Blake was drafted in the sixth round by the Jets in 1992 and also played for the Bengals (1994-99), Saints (2000-01), Ravens (2002), Cardinals (2003), Eagles (2004) and Bears (2005). His best seasons came with Cincinnati in the mid-to-late 1990s (when he was often referred to as "Shake-N-Blake" by local media and fans), as he established great rapport with Bengal receivers Carl Pickens and Darnay Scott, helping the former vie for the receiving title in 1995.

Blake left the Bengals after the 1999 season. He signed with the New Orleans Saints as a free agent, starting eleven games before breaking his foot late in the 2000 season and being replaced by Aaron Brooks. He left the Saints after the 2001 season, starting eleven contests for the Ravens in 2002 and thirteen more for the Cardinals in 2003, but neither team expressed interest in signing him to a long-term contract.

Blake was signed by the Chicago Bears before the 2005 NFL season to replace back-up quarterback Chad Hutchinson. Following an injury to the Bears' starting quarterback, Rex Grossman, coach Lovie Smith opted to select rookie Kyle Orton to fill the slot. During the last game of the regular NFL season, Blake was put in to replace Kyle Orton during the fourth quarter, completing eight of nine passes.

The Bears did not express any interest in re-signing Blake, despite stating that he wished to continue playing and working with Grossman,. His contract with the team expired before the start of the 2006 NFL season. His position was filled by Kyle Orton, who was demoted after the Bears signed Brian Griese to serve as Grossman's back-up. At the conclusion of his fourteen-year career, Blake amassed 21,711 passing yards, with 134 touchdown passes, and 99 interceptions. A mobile quarter-back, he ran for 2,027 career rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. He also made 100 career starts.

Isaiah has two brothers who have also enjoyed success on the gridiron. Brother Cayleb, also a wide receiver, is currently in training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles. He started his college career with the Texas Longhorns, but later sat out the 2013 season after leaving the university and transferring to the University of Arizona. Jones instantly became Arizona's most prolific receiver, as he caught 73 balls for 1,019 yards in his first year in Rich Rodriguez' system.

Big things were expected in 2015, but with inconsistent quarterback play combined with Pac-12 defenses focusing on taking him away, Jones' numbers dropped in his redshirt campaign. He managed to get to 55 catches and 904 yards. On December 27th, 2015, he officially decided to leave Arizona. He entered the 2016 draft, but was not selected, joining the Eagles as a free agent. They also have a younger brother following in their father’s footsteps, as Levi is a standout linebacker who currently is playing for Westlake High School in Austin, Texas.

Uncle Jeff had two of his four children compete in college sports. His oldest son, Emory, was in camp with the St. Louis Rams and was a former Auburn wide receiver that played a major role in Auburn's 2010 BCS National Championship season. His sister, Torre, plays for the Eat Carolina Pirates volleyball team.

THE LUCK OF THE IRISH SHINES FOR ISAIAH

Jones attended Stephen F. Austin (Austin, Tx.) High School, where he played football for head coach Mike Rosenthal, a former Notre Dame offensive lineman, who went on to play in the National Football League for the New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Miami Dolphins. It was under Rosenthal that Jones began to see recruiters take notice, as he was utilized as a slot receiver, flanker, wildcat formation quarterback, kickoff and punt returner, in addition to handling some punting duties.

Despite that heavy workload and tipping the scales at 170 pounds, Jones garnered three-star recruit status from Scout.com and ESPN.com. In two seasons under Rosenthal, Jones first shared District 15-5A Newcomer-of-the-Year honors with Bowie High’s junior running back Gino Jonassaint as a junior. While playing a variety of roles, in addition to starting as a receiver, he amassed 41 catches for 359 yards and four touchdowns, adding 55 yards and a score on 42 rushing attempts, as he completed 27-of-53 passes (50.9%) for 280 yards with four touchdowns, along with four interceptions in 2011.

As a senior, the first-team All-District Class 15-5A selection as a wide receiver and kick returner, was one of only three receivers to earn a spot on the Austin American-Statesman's All-Central Texas 2012 football team, as the All-Austin Area Team pick collected 36 passes for 439 yards (12.2 ypr) and six touchdowns, coming up with fourteen kick returns for 159 yards (11.4 avg), as he rushed for an additional 204 yards on 41 carries and completed three-of-six passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. He also averaged 30.8 yards on eighteen punts.

Jones announced in March, 2012, that he would become an East Carolina University Pirate enrollee upon graduating from high school. Rather than spend the 2013 season as a red-shirt, his work in the training room finally forced the coaching staff to insert him into the lineup after five appearances. As a reserve, he was averaging 2.2 catches and 18 receiving yards per game. As a starter, he averaged 64.25 yards and 6.38 receptions. He finished second on the team with 62 catches, reaching the end zone five times. The All-Conference USA Freshman Team choice recorded 37 first downs and was successful on 81.58% of the balls targeted to him (76).

As a sophomore, Jones started nine of thirteen contests at the “H” receiver position. Doing the dirty work in traffic, he pulled in 81-of-111 targeted throws (72.97%) for 830 yards, scoring five times from the slot. He registered 42 first downs, converting eleven third-down tosses in the process and set up thirteen other touchdowns by consistently turning short throws into big gains.

The All-American Athletic Conference selection played most of the 2015 season as a “one-armed bandit,” by that fearless nature and insistence in playing with pain from a left shoulder dislocation and torn labrum immediately captured the attention of professional scouts and fans, alike. Despite being banged up, he collected 98 of the 124 balls targeted to him (79.03%), becoming the sixth player in school history to amass 1,000 receiving yards (1,099).

Jones returns to action this fall at flanker. Listed as the most underrated receiver eligible for the 2017 draft by The NFL Draft Report, the senior was also named by that scouting information service as the nation’s “breakout player” for the 2016 campaign. He is fully recovered from shoulder surgery and currently is the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision’s active leader with 241 receptions, ranking third among returning FBS players with 2,533 aerial yards.

While displaying an angular frame, Jones has linebacker-like upper body strength, likely from the gene pool he inherited from his father

EAST CAROLINA WIDE RECEIVERS IN THE NFL DRAFT

East Carolina began playing organized football in 1932 and the National Football League’s inaugural draft was held four years later in 1936, but it was until 1951 before a Pirate was selected in the draft phase. Running back Roger Thrift was a 12th round pick by the Cleveland Browns, but he failed to earn a roster spot. Ten years later, tight end Glenn Bass was chosen in the fifth round of the 1961 NFL Draft by Cardinals, and in the 23rd round of the AFL Draft by San Diego.

Bass shifted to flanker in the pro ranks after signing with the Buffalo Bills (1961-66) before joining the Houston Oilers (966-67). He caught fifty passes for the Bills as a rookie and played in five playoffs with the Bills and Oilers, winning three Eastern Division titles (1964–1966) and two American Football League Championships (1964 and 1965) with the Bills, and an Eastern Division crown with the Oilers (1967).

The next ECU wide receiver to hear his name called on draft day was Tim Dameron. Taken in the 16th round of the 1973 draft by Houston, he never reached the pro ranks. Twelve years later, Ricky Nichols was an eighth round pick by Indianapolis in 1985, but in three appearances, he failed to catch a pass before making his professional exit.

Similar fates would meet the next three drafted ECU wide receivers. In 1992, Dion Johnson was taken in the tenth round by Houston, but was an early training camp casualty. Larry Shannon, the highest drafted receiver in school history, joined Miami as the 82nd overall choice (round three) in 1998, but never caught a pass in two contests that he appeared in during the 1999 schedule. In 1996, sixth round pick, Troy Smith, became a Philadelphia Eagle. He appeared in only one game, tacking on one catch for 14 yards that season.

Eight years later, speedy Aundrae Allison was selected in the fifth round by Minnesota in 2007. He appeared in 26 games over a two-year career that saw him snatch eighteen passes for 231 yards, but fail to reach the end zone. Dwayne Harris was a sixth round pick by the Dallas Cowboys, enjoying more success as a return specialist than a pass catcher. One of two ECU receivers currently active, he appeared in seven games for the Pokes as a rookie, returning 15 punts for 80 yards.

In 2012, he had his first career punt return for a touchdown vs. Philadelphia, as his 78-yard return broke a fourth-quarter tie and earned him NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. His impact as a returner in special teams convinced the coaching staff to give him more opportunities at wide receiver, as he would later finish second in the NFL in punt return average (16.1 yards).

During the 2013 season, Harris started to be used as a gunner on special teams, in addition to handling return chores. The two-time NFL Special Teams Player of the Week registered 222 total return yards which outgained the Cowboys’ offense by nine yards, including an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 90-yard kickoff return vs. Washington, becoming the third player (Chris Boniol and Billy Cundiff were the first) in team history to win the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week two times in a season.

Although he missed three late season games, Harris tied for second on the team with 12 special teams tackles, finished ranked third in punt return average (12.8) and second in kick return average (30.6) in the NFL. As a wide receiver he had nine receptions for 80 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner vs. the Minnesota Vikings. In 2014, he led the team with 18 special teams tackles, but all of his other stats dropped off from the previous year. The team struggled in the return game and he was rarely targeted as the fourth wide receiver.

Harris left as the franchise's all-time leader on kickoff returns with a 26.5-yard career average and a single-season 30.6-yard average in 2013. He finished tied for second with an 11.1-yard career punt return average. In 2015, he joined the New York Giants on a five-year deal. Although he was acquired to serve primarily as a return man on special teams, he passed Preston Parker on the depth chart as the slot wide receiver, before injuries to the receiver corps forced him to start six games. He was declared inactive for the last game with a shoulder injury, finishing with career-highs in receptions (36), receiving yards (396) and receiving touchdowns (4) last season.

Jones’ former teammate, Justin Hardy, holder of nearly all of East Carolina’s receiving records and the NCAA’s record-holder with 387 receptions as a collegian, was selected in the fourth round of the 2015 draft by Atlanta. He appeared in nine games last season, starting one contest when injuries depleted his unit. He did not record any touchdowns (had 35 at ECU), but did manage to grab 21 short passes for 194 yards. He currently sits second on the Falcons depth chart behind Julio Jones at split end.

The 6:02 receiver's ability to high-point for the ball has seen him secure 325-of-417 targeted passes during his East Carolina career

JONES SCOUTING REPORT

Body Structure…Jones has a lean and muscular frame with room to add more bulk without it affecting his excellent quickness. He displays a tight waist, defined legs (thighs, calves and ankles), developed abdomen, good bubble and high cut legs with well-developed hamstrings. He possesses good width in his shoulders and chest and low body fat. For a player at his position, he’s shown impressive strength, as he often had to fight for the ball in a crowd. His training skills have seen him be cited by ECU head strength coach Jeff Connors as the most improved member of the program (physical development) after his sophomore year, as he’s added over twenty pounds of muscle to his frame since first entering the program in 2013.

Athletic Ability…Jones has good overall muscle development and appears to have more than enough strength to defeat the jam, evident by his weight room numbers listed above (also recorded a 260-pound push jerk). He demonstrates an explosive burst coming off the snap and the loose hips to make defenders miss when weaving through traffic, having greatly improved his overall quickness since arriving on campus as a freshman and settling in as a receiver (timed at 5.08 during his prep senior year, but has reduced it to 4.5 currently). He shows that valid second gear needed to turn a slant pass into a long gainer (see 2015 Florida, Virginia Tech, Central Florida; 2014 North Carolina Central, North Carolina games) and with his exceptional route running skills and burst, he can easily escape from second level defenders (broke the initial tackle 45 times for gains of at least ten yards after the grab). He is much more than just a receiver, as he has the lower body power to handle the rushing load and break tackles working through the pile, or putting the ball up for the receiver to catch in stride, on those occasions when Jones operates from the “wildcat” scheme (2015 Tulsa game). He also displays the vision and patience to follow his blockers and then turn on the after-burners to beat the defense down the sidelines. He has outstanding hip snap and agility to elude in attempts to gain big yardage after the catch. He makes smooth body adjustments and possesses solid hands and extension to catch away from his frame. He has outstanding balance and change-of-direction agility that he often shows in the second level, along with the explosiveness and fluid natural running motion to run past most defenders in isolated coverage.

Football Sense…Jones has incredible vision and a great feel for locating the soft spots on the field, evident by his success in converting 37 third-down plays and breaking tackles for long gains on 45 of his 226 non-touchdown grabs. He might take his eyes off the ball a few times, but is quick to recover and settle under the pass (has dropped just one ball – vs. Temple in 2015 – on 311 passes targeted to him at ECU). He shows good route refinement and makes quick adjustments, thanks to his loose hips, and he is quite alert to pocket pressure, working back quickly when the quarterback is flushed out. He’s a savvy in-line blocker, but you can see he also relishes his role stalking and delivering second level blocks for the ground game. He shows keen awareness on the field, especially with keeping his feet along the sidelines. He is quick to settle into the holes in the zone and is very effective as a cut blocker because of his feel for taking angles. He finds the open areas quickly and does a nice job of working back for the ball, as he can rely on his speed rather to go with his football experience. He is a good learner who needs just a few reps, thanks to solid retention skills. He’s also excelled in the classroom, receiving university academic honors.

Character…Jones is the university’s “poster child.” He is outgoing and warm-hearted, displaying a work ethic that even the most impatient coach will fall in love with. He has no character issues and he is well-liked in the locker room and campus. He is the “media darling” with strong ties to the community and even starred in an athletics department promotional video in 2016 entitled Can’t Stop The Feeling of Pirate Pride! He has strong ties to the game of football and the university, as his father, Robert, is still the only consensus All-American (1991) that the school has ever produced. The student enjoys acting and dancing, and has served as co-master of ceremonies for the 2015 ECU Goldspy’s (an annual awards presentation and ceremony emulating the ESPY’s). With the arrival of the new staff, Jones took on a mentoring role during spring drills (unable to participate due to shoulder surgery) and you can see that he could eventually be strong coaching material, if he decides to enter that field once his playing days are over.

Competitiveness…Jones is not the type that plays with a swagger, letting his final statistics speak volumes for his competitive nature. He is fearless going for the ball in traffic and will sacrifice himself without hesitation to make the play (played most of the 2015 season with a left shoulder dislocation and a torn labrum). He loves to compete and is very confident with producing when his number is called during crunch time (came up with four game-winning plays in his last 16 contests). He is very tough and aggressive going for the ball, and seems to have a “fullback’s approach” when facing up as a blocker. When he is in the “zone,” he will give a good, consistently high effort and he always comes prepared to play. He has good fearlessness, as it is rare to see him take the ball out of bounds, preferring rather to drive through the defender. He will perform through pain.

Work Habits…Jones quickly embraced the training program instituted for him upon his arrival on campus. He entered as a freshman running 5.08 in the 40-yard dash, posting a 4.47 20-yard shuttle with a 28-inch vertical jump. He currently runs between 4.42-to-4.5, has a 4.04 shuttle run and 36.5-inch vertical jump. He’s been quite active in fall camp, as he finally gets that opportunity to stretch the field as a senior, moving out of the tough “H” spot to take over “Z” duties under the new coaching regime. He’s been cited by the training staff in the past for his athletic and strength improvements, leading one to be confident that tireless work ethic will translate to the professional agenda.

Recovering from shoulder surgery after playing most of the 2015 season with a torn labrum, Jones was unable to participate in 2016 spring drills

Release…Do not judge this receiver with a stopwatch in your hands – he plays much faster with his equipment on than most players can. Jones simply explodes out of his stance and past a lethargic defender to instantly get into his patterns. One noticeable improvement that he made as a junior was showing that he can be just as smooth as sudden in his release, which will generally fool the defender and get the man covering him to come out of the backpedal too early. He has the ability to elude the press with his quickness and footwork. He has also become much more active using his hands to prevent from getting held up when the physical cornerback attempts to stab him initially. He has that natural second gear to gobble up the cushion and get behind the cornerbacks on deep routes (see 2015 Florida and Central Florida; 2014 North Carolina Central, North Carolina, SMU games). He has learned how to sink his pads better (used to get too erect at times), and safeties and second level defenders found it very hard to mirror him once he gets past his opponent. He also generates strong hand usage to beat the press. He shows outstanding hip shake with suddenness when trying to change direction (very good at freezing defenders at the line of scrimmage). The thing you notice mostly on film is his built-up acceleration to get through field once he creates the lane. Unlike most receivers, he does not dance too much at the line and that allows him to show outstanding quickness in his release, with the shiftiness and avoidance ability at the line of scrimmage to defeat the press. Thanks to his vast improvement in developing strength since arriving at ECU, he does a good job of pushing off the defender and quickly eludes with his swim move.

Acceleration…Jones shows excellent burst and explosion in his RAC, as he has the feet and loose hips to change direction without needing to gather or throttle down (gained at least an additional ten yards on 45 of his non-touchdown catches after bouncing off the initial hit). He runs very crisp routes and has more than enough quickness, spin and swim movement to escape from tight man coverage (see 2015 Towson, Florida, Navy, Temple, Connecticut, Central Florida and Cincinnati games). Yes, there are faster receivers, but Jones operates with that “catch me if you can” label for defenders to view as he races by. Once he gets a clean release and into the second level, it is nearly impossible to slow him down. He has great body control and adjustment skills to maintain stride and speed running through tight quarters. He might not look like he has size to run through traffic, but with his strength and burst, he easily creates separation to turn the slants and fades into big gainers. He is reliable catching the ball (secured an NCAA FCS nation-high 79.03% of the passes thrown to him in 2015 and his career success rate of 77.49% on 241-of-311 targeted tosses is currently the best for any active player in all of college football). Look for his speed to be more evident on deep patterns in 2016, as he shifts to flanker after toiling for three years as a slot receiver. He consistently gets behind the defender and has good leaping ability. Since arriving on campus in 2013, he’s greatly improved his timing, which resulted in him winning 19-of-28 jump ball battles last season. If a defender hesitates, Jones can change gears and beat his man, gaining over 65% of his yardage after the catch during his last two seasons. He is quick to uncover and even quicker to separate on short patterns. He shows exceptional ability to get open deep, displaying that speed needed to take the ball to the house (this will be highlighted more at flanker in 2016).

Quickness…Jones did not have a strong-armed quarterback to work with in 2015 (James Summers was more of a duel threat and Blake Kemp struggled with consistency and turnovers), resulting in him being used mostly on controlled and underneath routes, but it is evident that he can get vertical in an instant (see 2015 Navy, Virginia Tech, Central Florida; 2014 North Carolina Central, Tulane games). He does a good job of getting under the deep throws, turning nicely to make the over-the-shoulder grabs. He is blessed with good quickness on the field, as he consistently makes short and sharp cuts without having to break stride. His initial burst is sudden, especially when left uncontested. He can avoid defenders on the move, create lanes and get up field in an instant once he gets a clean release. It is rare to see him get “too busy” with the press corners at the line of scrimmage and he quickly gains advantage on the defender due to his speed. He has a good feel for knowing when to gear down in order to prevent from out-running the ball.

Route Running…This is probably Jones’s most impressive area. He used to round his cuts at times and drift in and out on long patterns, but has shown vast improvement the last two years, running precise routes with good suddenness. You can see that he has enough quickness needed to elude press coverage. He is a smart, precise route runner capable of getting in and out of his break to gain separation and he does a very good job of locating and settling into soft areas when attacking zone coverage. He has a nice array of head fakes and double moves to con and sell the defender, proving to be especially slippery on slants, as he drops his weight well and gets back to the ball with little-to-no wasted motion. If you need a receiver to fly off the line, especially on posts, this is where he excels. He has the ability to make things happen on comeback routes, showing good urgency working back when the QB is flushed. He displays excellent quickness and foot speed in and out of his breaks. When he plays at a low pad level, he gets into his routes immediately. He shows good set up and body control and knows how to use his hands to prevent the defender from attacking him and trying to reroute him with a strong push.

Separation Ability…Thanks to playing 38 games in the slot, Jones has really developed his escape skills, more out of necessity, as the team did not have a quarterback with the arm strength to stretch the defense. He has that explosive burst to get vertical and will simply blow past defenders, in addition to showing the vision to find the void and settle. There is no doubt that he will be able to gain separation vs. NFL cornerbacks. He has shown marked improvement sinking his hips and exploding out of his breaks, no longer struggling to separate when he comes off the snap with an erect stance (did this during the early part of his freshman season). He was highly effective as a slot receiver, as he excels at taking slants and crossers for big yardage, but this season will be his litmus test, as the staff plans on often lining him out wide. He is very effective when it comes to setting up defenders, as he displays good head and shoulder fakes, relying on his burst and second gear to elude. He has that speed and burst allows him to consistently get past his opponent. He is very quick out of his breaks, especially when trying to pull and separate with vertical routes and short runs, and has done a nice job of being more conscious of playing with a low pad level.

Ball Concentration…This is what Jones does better than any receiver in the country. When he sets his sights on the ball, his sure hands and superb concentration skills will usually result in the reception. He is very alert of the chains and sidelines, doing a very good job of keeping his feet in bounds. He is quick to find the soft spot in the zone and has enough hip swerve and good head fakes to elude in the open. He does a very good job of coming back for the poorly thrown pass (see 2015 Florida, Temple, Connecticut and Cincinnati games) and knows where he needs to be on the field at all times. When going over the middle for the ball, he will shield it properly from defenders and is always ready to compete for the jump ball, timing his leaps to get to it at its high point.

Ball Adjustment…Jones shows above average body control and agility, keeping his head on a swivel to easily look the ball in without breaking stride. He makes great catches seem routine and you have to love his “moxie” trying to get physical in attempts to take the ball away from defenders (see 2015 Towson, Florida, Virginia Tech, Temple, Central Florida and Cincinnati games). He shows good courage going up for the ball to high point the pass in traffic. He has more than enough functional strength to hold up to punishing hits he takes going over the middle. He has the ability to make proper adjustments on ball and is very athletic to turn his body around as he tracks the ball well. His flexibility and ability to turn allows him to excel at adjusting to the off-target passes. To date, on 311 targeted passes, he has dropped just one (vs. Temple in 2015).

Leaping Ability…Jones has greatly improved his leaping ability. He arrived on campus with a 28-inch vertical jump and recently recorded 36.5-inches in that event, while performing at 11’-05” in the long jump. The prep long and triple jump standout won 19-of-28 jump ball opportunities last year. For a player with his impressive vertical jump, you can see why the new staff wanted him challenging smaller cornerbacks in 2016, rather than combat the larger safeties in traffic. He has worked hard improving his timing each year and you can see by the way he plays that he obviously has no fear going up and catching the ball at its high point. He shows excellent explosion when elevating to get to the pass and he possesses that ability to go get the ball and out jump, especially on deep patterns.

Jones has caught nearly 80% of the passes targeted to him and ECU fans have become used to him making spectacular one-hand grabs

Hands…Jones does a nice job of catching every ball thrown his way (grabbed 98-of-124 targeted passes in 2015 and 241-of-311 during his career). He has the soft, natural hands, along with the ability to snatch high and away from his frame. He displays above average ball security skills to excel as a receiver, on the reverse and when returning kicks. He looks natural getting elevation and extension to catch outside his frame and if he drops a pass (only once as a Pirate), it is usually the result of momentarily losing focus. He has soft, natural hands, extending well to catch away from the body’s framework. He is not the type that will revert to body catching, at times, as he is a soft hands catcher who just needs to learn how to time his leaps properly to get to the pass at its highest point.

Run After the Catch…Jones is an exciting and electrifying open field runner. He is an elusive shaker with excellent change of direction skills, sort of like a water bug the way he can slip, slide and elude on the move. He not only shows good quickness working in the short area, but great toughness, as well. He has outstanding skill set in terms of speed, quickness, agility and change of direction. He is tough to bring down in isolated coverage and does a nice job of sidestepping low tackles. When he is out in front, he will generally win most foot races (never caught from behind in college). Most of his career yardage has come after the catch.

Blocking Ability…Jones is a highly effective cut blocker who shows a great desire to face up to blitzers working in the backfield or along the line. He was more of a pester type as a freshman, but has made great strides when asked to work in the backfield or on the line in pass protection. He has that field vision and desire to do the job of seeking out and neutralizing defenders, especially in the backfield. He does take good angles to neutralize the linebackers as a cut blocker and did a very nice job of looking up defensive backs down field on broken plays. When working at the line of scrimmage, he gets his hands up quickly coming out of his stance to lock on and sustain. He is an aggressive type that will always face up to the competition. Working up field, he uses his body well as a position blocker to seal off. He makes every effort to hold and maintain contact in the open and will rarely struggle to sustain vs. moving defensive backs.

CAREER NOTES...Moving to split end as a senior, Jones has started 35-of-44 games, including 29 starting assignments at the “H” (left inside slot) receiver position, as he caught at least one pass in 43 of those games and had multiple-catch efforts in every contest that he caught a ball (only non-reception game was vs. Virginia Tech, his third for ECU as a freshman)…Has snatched 325 passes (7.39 per game) for 3,373 yards (10.38 yards per catch and 76.66 yards per game) with eighteen touchdowns…Returned 29 kickoffs for 598 yards (20.62 avg) and one punt for eight yards…Completed 2-of-3 passes for 34 yards and recorded three tackles…Added eighteen yards on four carries…On 417 touches, he’s generated 3,997 all-purpose yards, an average of 90.84 yards per game and 11.13 per snap.

Jones East Carolina Receiving Statistical Breakdown…Jones caught 325-of-417 passes targeted to him, as that success rate of 77.94% is the highest ever for an East Carolina receiver and is currently the best for any active player in the entire collegiate ranks (minimum 50 receptions)…In addition to his eighteen touchdown receptions, Jones had key grabs that set up fifty other touchdown drives and on twenty possessions that resulted in field goals…Recorded 194 first downs (59.69% of his catches), as he converted 52-of-90 third-down tosses and 11-of-16 fourth-down snaps…Had 49 of his receptions downed inside the red zone, including eight within five yards of the end zone…On 57 of his 307 non-touchdown catches, he broke the initial tackle for gains of at least ten yards after the grab, as he registered 139 receptions (42.77%) for at least ten yards, including 39 (12.00%) for twenty yards or longer…Among the 92 targeted passes that he did not catch, Jones dropped only one of those attempts, as East Carolina quarterbacks misfired on 48 of those tosses and threw under duress (pressures) sixteen other times, while the opposition deflected 27 other tries.

NCAA Career Record Results…Among currently active NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision performers, Jones is the leading active receiver with 325 receptions (Corey Davis of Western Michigan is second with 271), as he ranks second actively with an average of 7.39 receptions per game (Richie James of Middle Tennessee leads with an average of 8.18) and is second with 3,373 aerial yards (Corey Davis is tops at 4,374)…His average gain of 76.66 receiving yards per game is fourth among active FBS players and his 3,997 all-purpose yards place 15th overall (fourth among receivers, as Corey Davis has compiled 4,387 yards; Victor Boldin of Oregon State registered 4,294 yards and Janarian Grant of Rutgers has totaled 4,248).

NCAA Season-Record Results…At his current 2016 pace, Jones would finish the 2016 season with 168 receptions. The NCAA FBS record is 155 catches by Freddie Barnes of Bowling Green in 2009, but Barnes recorded that feat in thirteen games and Jones projection is for twelve contests…His average of 14.0 receptions per game through six contests on the 2016 schedule would top the current NCAA record of 13.4 receptions by Howard Twilley of Tulsa in 1965.

NCAA Game-Record Results…Jones caught 22 passes vs. South Carolina in 2016, not only setting school and conference records, but he fell one shy of tying the NCAA record of 23 grabs that is shared by Randy Gatewood of Nevada-Las Vegas (vs. Idaho in 1994) and Tyler Jones of Eastern Michigan (vs. Central Michigan in 2008). Freddie Barnes of Bowling Green (vs. Kent State in 2009) and Jay Miller of Brigham Young (vs. New Mexico in 1973) also matched Jones’ figure of 22 catches in a game.

American Athletic Conference Career Records…Jones played in Conference USA as a freshman, but during his last two-plus seasons in the AAC, he’s pulled in 263 passes for 2,769 yards and thirteen touchdowns, topping the previous league all-time record of 233 grabs by Shaq Washington of Cincinnati (2013-15)…His receiving yards also established a new conference record, as he moved ahead of Washington (2,528), Keyarris Garrett of Tulsa (2,286; 2014-15), Chris Moore of Cincinnati (2,188; 2013-15) and Deontay Greenberry of Houston (2,043; 2013-14) during his senior season…His thirteen 100-yard receiving performances topped the conference career record of eight that he had previously shared with Justin Hardy of East Carolina, Deontay Greenberry, Keyarris Garrett and Shaq Washington prior to the 2016 schedule…His average gain of 89.32 yards receiving per game (31 contests for 2,769 yards in AAC action) is second-best all-time, topped by Keyaris Garrett (99.38 ypg; 23 games, 2,286 yards), as he moved ahead of Deontay Greenberry (81.72 ypg; 25 games, 2,043 yards) in 2016.

American Athletic Conference Season Records…Jones averaged 91.58 receiving yards per game in 2015, the seventh-best season average by an AAC player (record is 122.2 yards per game by Keyaris Garrett of Tulsa in 2015)…His 1,099 yards receiving in 2015 is seventh-best on the conference annual chart behind Keyarris Garrett of Tulsa (1,588 in 2015), Justin Hardy of East Carolina (1,494 2014), Demarcus Ayers of Houston (1,222 in 2015), Keevan Lucas of Tulsa (1,219 in 2014), Deontay Greenberry of Houston (1,202 in 2013) and Jeremy Johnson of Southern Methodist (1,112 in 2013)…His average of 8.17 receptions per game in 2015 placed fifth on the ACC annual list behind Jeremy Johnson of Southern Methodist (9.33; 112 receptions in 12 games during 2013), Justin Hardy (9.31; 121 reception in 13 games during 2014), Darius Joseph of Southern Methodist (8.58; 103 catches in 12 games during 2013) and Keevan Lucas of Tulsa (8.42; 101 grabs in 12 games during 2014). He is currently averaging 14.0 receptions per game in 2016, which would set a new NCAA FBS record…His 98 receptions in 2015 tied Demarcus Ayers of Houston (2015) for fifth on the AAC season-record chart, surpassed by Justin Hardy (121 in 2014), Jeremy Johnson (112 in 2013), Darius Joseph )103 in 2013) and Keevan Lucas (101 in 2014)…His 81 receptions in 2014 rank 11th on the AAC season-record list and his current total of 84 grabs through six games on the 2016 schedule holds down that chart’s ninth spot.

American Athletic Conference Game Records…Jones’ fourteen receptions in each of his 2015 appearances vs. Florida and Central Florida were topped by only Jeremy Johnson of Southern Methodist (18 vs. Rutgers in 2013), Geremy Davis of Connecticut (15 vs. Memphis in 2013) and Justin Hardy of East Carolina (15 vs. Cincinnati in 2014) on the AAC game list, that is, until his 2016 season’s first half, where he set the league record with 22 receptions vs. South Carolina, tied Jeremy Johnson for second with eighteen catches vs. South Florida and nailed down the fourth spot with seventeen more grabs in the Central Florida clash.

School Career Records…Jones ranks second in school history with 325 receptions, topped by only Justin Hardy (387; 2011-14)…His 3,373 yards receiving is surpassed by only Hardy (4,541) in ECU annals…Holds the school record with fifteen 100-yard receiving performances. The previous mark was ten by Hardy…His eighteen touchdown catches are surpassed by only Hardy (35), Lance Lewis (22; 2010-11), Larry Shannon (21; 1994-97) and Dwayne Harris (20; 2007-10) on the Pirates’ all-time record list.

School Season Records…Jones is the sixth player in school history to record over 1,000 yards in a season, taking the fourth spot on the annual chart with 1,099 yards. Others to reach that level include Justin Hardy (1,284 in 2013; 1,494 in 2014; 1,105 in 2012), Dwayne Harris (1,123 in 2010), Lance Lewis (1,116 in 2010), Aundrae Allison (1,024 in 2005) and Cam Worthy (1,016 in 2014)…His 98 receptions in 2015 rank fourth in school annals, topped by Hardy (121 in 2014; 114 in 2013) and Harris (101 in 2010)…His 81 catches in 2014 placed 11th on that list while his current numbers of 84 catches through six games in 2016 is already ninth on that chart.

School Game Records…Jones recorded fourteen receptions in each of his 2015 appearances vs. Florida and East Carolina. The only player to catch more passes in a contest for the Pirates was Justin Hardy (seventeen vs. Tulane in 2013; sixteen vs. Old Dominion in 2013 and vs. Marshall in 2012; fifteen vs. Cincinnati in 2014) until Jones registered three outstanding performances in 2016 – setting the new record with 22 receptions vs. South Carolina, securing the second spot with eighteen catches vs. South Florida and then tying Hardy with a 17-catch effort vs. Central Florida…His 181 receiving yards vs. Central Florida in 2015 claimed the seventh spot on the school game-record chart while his 190-yard performance vs. South Carolina in 2016 took over fourth place, topped by Justin Hardy (191 vs. Old Dominion and 230 vs. Tulane in 2013) and Terry Gallaher (218 vs. Appalachian State in 1975)…He also tallied 180 yards vs. Western Carolina in the 2016 season opener, placing eighth on that list.

2016 SEASON...Called the most underrated receiver in the 2017 draft class by The NFL Draft Report, Jones also received second-team preseason All-American honors from that scouting information service…Named to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List, given to the nation’s top receiver, Jones became just the fifth Pirates receiver to ever be named to that list and only the second to receive that distinction during multiple seasons. He joined Justin Hardy (2012, 2013, 2014), Lance Lewis (2011), Dwayne Harris (2010) and Aundrae Allison (2006) as other East Carolina performers to be selected to that preseason chart…Jones is one of 41 players named to the initial 2016 Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award Watch List. The inclusion is the second-straight for Jones, who followed two-time semifinalist Shane Carden (2013 and 2014). The Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award, initiated in 2012, recognizes the top offensive player in Division I football who also exhibits the enduring characteristics that define former running back Earl Campbell: integrity, performance, teamwork, sportsmanship, drive, community and tenacity; specifically tenacity to persist and determination to overcome adversity and injury in pursuit of reaching goals. In addition, the nominee must meet one or more of the following criteria: born in Texas and/or graduated from a Texas High School and/or played at a Texas-based junior college or four year college…Jones is fully recovered from January surgery to repair damage to his left shoulder that he played with during the 2015 campaign. “I’ve played this entire season with a torn labrum/dislocated shoulder and it did not stop me,” the senior receiver stated. “Surgery is just another test I have to overcome. I’m so thankful and grateful for this opportunity to show the strength the Lord has given me. God’s been there every step of the way and He is so good. I have so much faith in Him. On the road to recovery because we have to kick ass next season. Thank you for all the support. Love you guys.”…The preseason All-American Athletic Conference selection by Athlon Sports and Phil Steele Magazine for the second-straight season, he is also a two-year member of the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation’s most versatile college performer…After starting at the “H” (slot) receiver position for three years, Jones got his chance to shine further as his excellent speed and ability to stretch the field are the reasons that he has put up tremendous numbers while shifting to the “X” (split end) spot for his final campaign…The senior entered his final season ranked third in school history with 241 receptions and 2,533 reception yards, trailing only Justin Hardy and Dwayne Harris, but he has put on a potentially NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision season-record pace, as he’s managed to haul down an incredible 84 passes for 840 yards and three touchdowns through the first six games on the 2016 schedule that included five contests with double-digit reception figures, marking thirteen times during his career that he has reached that level…Additionally, he gained 24 yards on three carries and caught a two-point conversion pass…If Jones remains at this pace, he will have 168 receptions during the regular season. The NCAA FBS annual record is 155 catches by Freddie Barnes of Bowling Green in 2009…Jones is averaging 14.0 receptions per game, ahead of the NCAA record of 13.4 catches per game by Tulsa’s Howard Twilley in 1965…Since the start of the 2015 season, Jones is averaging 10.2 receptions per game…The two-year span record average is 10.5 catches by Manny Hazard of Houston (1989-90)…Jones has caught 79.25% of the 106 passes targeted to him, as he recorded 54 first downs while converting fifteen third-down pass plays and five more on fourth down…Forty of his receptions gained at least ten yards, including nine for twenty yards or longer…He broke away from would-be tacklers for big gains on twelve occasions and nine of his non-touchdown catches were downed inside the red zone, including three near the goal line…Was tackled for losses on four pass plays and stopped for no gains on two others…Did not drop any passes, but East Carolina quarterbacks misfired on sixteen targets and the opposition deflected six other attempts…In addition to his three touchdown catches, Jones recorded key receptions that set up eight other touchdown drives and on six possessions that resulted in field goals.

2016 SEASON GAME ANALYSIS

Eight of Zay's ten receptions vs. Western Carolina were good for first downs, including five grabs for twenty yards or longer

Western Carolina...The Scottie Montgomery era at East Carolina started behind a precision passing performance by quarterback Philip Nelson, who shredded the Western Carolina defense for 398 yards and five touchdowns in a 52-7 victory in front of an energetic opening-day crowd in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Multiple weapons carried the offense and a balanced defensive effort controlled the field as Montgomery enjoyed a solid start under cloudy skies, but none shined better than the team’s new split end, as the former slot receiver pulled in all ten balls targeted to him for 180 yards and a touchdown, recording eight first downs and converting a trio of third-down plays in the process…Jones’ day began much like his career, to this point – setting the table for ECU scoring drives. After he lost one yard on a sideline catch, Jones broke free on a 33-yard grab that would set the tone for a 7-yard scoring burst by Nelson at the end of that 9-play, 89-yard season-opening drive…Another 33-yard reception, followed by a 12-yarder set up a 42-yard field goal later in the first frame…His 26-yard catch led to Jones pulling down a third-&-9 screen pass from Nelson for a 21-yard touchdown to conclude a 79-yard, 7-play second quarter march…The second half began with Jones getting under passes for 16- and 11-yard gains into the WCU red zone, where Anthony Scott then caught an 18-yard touchdown toss from Nelson for a 38-7 lead…Later in the third frame, Jones added a 30-yard one-hand catch that was followed by Nelson’s deep pass to Jimmy Williams for a 31-yard score…Record Watch-The game marked the seventh time as a Pirate that Jones posted a double-triple (catches-yards) and extended his streak to 36 consecutive games with a reception…It also marked the 38th time in 39 appearances that he had multiple catches and he registered his eleventh 100-yard receiving performance…Moved to fifth on the school all-time record list with his 16th touchdown catch…Improved his receiving yardage total to 2,109 yards in the American Athletic Conference, taking over the fourth spot on the league’s career-record chart, listing behind Shaq Washington of Cincinnati (2,528; 2013-15), Keyarris Garrett of Tulsa (2,286; 2014-15) and Chris Moore of Cincinnati (2,188; 2013-15). The only other AAC player with 2,000 receiving yards is Deontay Greenberry of Houston (2,043; 2013-14)…Head to Head Competition-SS#3-Fred Payne (5:10-200)-Seven tackles (5 solos), one stop-for-loss; CB#26-Trey Morgan (6:01-182)-Ten Tackles (6 solos), an assisted stop for a 1-yard loss…Jones Offensive Impact-The split end caught 10-of-10 targeted passes (100.00%) for 180 yards and a touchdown, as he recorded eight first downs, converting three third-down tosses. He had eight receptions gain at least ten yards, including five for twenty yards or longer. One of his catches was downed inside the red zone, as in addition to his scoring grab, he had key receptions to set up three touchdown drives and one possession that resulted in a field goal…He added five key down field blocks, including one that led to a touchdown…Team Offensive Impact-East Carolina completed 29-of-33 passes (87.88%) for 413 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions, as the team had three passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 688 yards on a total of 71 plays (9.69 yards per attempt).

North Carolina State…While Jones was held to “only” seven receptions, six resulted in first downs, including five third-down conversions, twice setting up touchdown drives (once as a receiver and again as a ball carrier) and getting the team field position needed to kick a field goal. It was East Carolina that delivered the decisive final blow on a fourth-quarter, 5-yard touchdown run by tail- back Anthony Scott in an epic 33-30 win in blisteringly-hot Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium….The game featured six lead changes and 942 yards in total offense, as rookie head coach Scottie Montgomery's feisty Pirates ran their win streak vs. Atlantic Coast Conference opponents to six games. "It's a grand day," stated Montgomery. "I don't think anybody but the Pirate Nation knew what this was going to be like. It was hot out there, but our fans didn't go anywhere. They were rowdy. They got here early." The crowd of 50,719 was the second largest in Dowdy-Ficklen history and pushed the all-time attendance mark at the venerable venue to 8,038,566 in 44 seasons…ECU rallied from behind three times in the second half behind the passing of quarterback Philip Nelson who connected on 33 of 43 passes for 297 yards. He narrowly missed his second straight 300-yard passing day…A trio of third-down conversions by Jones on passes totaling 32 yards set up an ECU 43-yard field goal early in the second quarter…Nelson was intercepted during the Pirates’ next series, but Jones tackled cornerback Jack Tocho near midfield to prevent a runback with the errant pass…Given a rare opportunity to carry the ball, Jones scooted for a 13-yard first down around left end and ECU ended that series with a 15-yard touchdown jaunt by “wildcat” James Summers to give the Pirates a 26-23 lead…An 11-yard catch over the middle, a 7-yard gain on third-&-3, 15 more yards on a third-&-6 crossing pass, followed by a pass interference call vs. NC State on a toss targeted for Jones placed the ball near the goal line in the fourth quarter, as Anthony Scott capped the 14-play, 84-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to again recapture the lead by a 33-30 mark with 5:49 remaining in the contest…Head to Head Competition-CB#29-Jack Tocho (6:00-202)-Six tackles (5 solos), one interception…Jones Offensive Impact-The split end caught 7-of-10 targeted passes (70.00%) for 73 yards, as Pirates quarterbacks misfired on three throws. He recorded six first downs and State was charged with a pass interference penalty on the receiver, as he converted five third-down plays. Four of his receptions gained at least ten yards, as he set up two touchdown drives (one each as a receiver and ball carrier) while also coming up with key grabs on a possession that resulted in a field goal…He added another first down on one rushing attempt and a solo tackle after an East Carolina pass was intercepted…Jones also delivered five blocks down field…Team Offensive Impact-East Carolina completed 33-of-43 passes (76.74%) for 297 yards, one touchdown and one interception, as the team had three passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 445 yards on a total of 76 plays (5.86 yards per attempt).

An emphatic shove on a South Carolina linebacker was one of the highlights as Jones set school and American Athletic Conference records with 22 receptions during the game, the third-highest game total in NCAA FBS annals

South Carolina…Jones put on a record-shattering performance vs. the Gamecocks, as he collected 22 of the 25 passes targeted to him, good for 190 yards, as he finished the day with 201 all-purpose yards (11 yards on two carries) en route to recording fourteen first downs and drawing a pair of pass interference calls…South Carolina dodged an upset by keeping the Pirates out of the end zone until the final minutes for a 20-15 decision in Williams-Brice Stadium. "The difference in the game was penalties and turnovers," said ECU first-year coach Scottie Montgomery. "Anytime you turn the ball over inside the five, the three and the one the way we did, and still be in it right there at the end…"

Jones, who missed tying the NCAA single-game record for receptions by one, while amassing a career-high 190 yards, shattered the ECU record of 17 catches by Justin Hardy posted on October 12th, 2003 vs. Tulane. It was his second double-triple (catches and yards) receiving game of the season and the eighth of his career. He also surpassed ten catches in a game for the tenth time, nd his 22nd catch from quarterback Philip Nelson set the Pirates up at the South Carolina four-yard line in the final minutes as ECU battled to pull off the upset. Jones's performance helped Nelson finish with 400 yards through the air. "Obviously the big thing is finishing," Nelson said. "I mean, we didn't finish at all, and that starts with me. As a quarterback, I gotta be able to help that offense finish. Our defense played absolutely flawlessly; we couldn't ask them to do any more than they did.”…On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Jones picked up 12 yards on a reverse…Later in the first frame, he pulled down 15- and 11-yard tosses to get the ball into the red zone, but the drive stalled and ECU settled for a 32-yard field goal…He later converted a fourth-&-5 toss into an 8-yard first down prior to halftime…The fourth quarter’s final possession saw Jones register five receptions for a total of 46 yards and three first downs, helping set up Nelson’s 4-yard scoring lob to Devin Anderson to close out a 75-yard, 13-play march with 2:29 left in the contest…The receiver fielded a flurry of questions in the media room after the game. On having personal success in the game (22 catches); “It’s just a flow of the game thing. I don’t think about it.”…On chances to still win the conference title; “We’re a good football team. We’ve show the type of team we usually are.”…Record Watch-Jones’s 22 receptions not only set school and conference records, but he fell one shy of tying the NCAA record of 23 grabs that is shared by Randy Gatewood of Nevada-Las Vegas (vs. Idaho in 1994) and Tyler Jones of Eastern Michigan (vs. Central Michigan in 2008). Freddie Barnes of Bowling Green (vs. Kent State in 2009) and Jay Miller of Brigham Young (vs. New Mexico in 1973) also matched Jones’ figure of 22 catches in a game…His 22 grabs broke the previous American Athletic Conference record of eighteen catches by Jeremy Johnson of Southern Methodist (vs. Rutgers in 2013)…His 22 grabs also broke the old school mark of seventeen catches by Justin Hardy vs. Central Florida in 2013…His 38-game streak of consecutive contests with a reception is the fourth-longest in the nation among active players…His 280 receptions as a Pirate secured the second spot on the school all-time record chart, surpassing Dwayne Harris (268; 2007-10). The record-holder is Hardy, who has 387 grabs (2011-14)…His 2,372 yards receiving since East Carolina joined the American Athletic Conference ranks second in league history, as he passed by Keyarris Garret of Tulsa (2,286; 2014-15) to place behind Shaq Washington of Cincinnati (2,528; 2013-15)…The game also marked his tenth double-digit reception game and 12th triple-digit yard totals for his career...To date, 119 of his 280 career receptions have gone for ten or more yards (35 for 20-plus)...Head to Head Competition-CB#3-Chris Lammons (5:10-190)-Eight tackles (6 solos), a 6-yard sack, two stops for minus 14 yards, a forced fumble, one interception; CB#7-Jamar King (6:02-183)-Six solo tackles, one interception…Jones Offensive Impact-The split end caught 22-of-25 targeted passes (88.00%) for 190 yards, as Pirates quarterbacks misfired on three throws. He recorded fourteen first downs and the Gamecocks were charged with two pass interference penalties on the receiver, as he converted one third-down play and another on a fourth-down snap. Ten of his receptions gained at least ten yards, as he had key grabs to set up one touchdown drive while also coming up with key catches on a possession that resulted in a field goal…Two of his catches were downed inside the red zone and he had one touch-down reception nullified by off-setting penalties…The split end also delivered seven key blocks, including five in the second level…Team Offensive Impact-East Carolina completed 44-of-58 passes (75.86%) for 400 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, as the team had four passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 519 yards on a total of 91 plays (5.70 yards per attempt).

Virginia Tech…Coming off that 22-reception performance, Jones continued to torch secondaries, grabbing ten passes for 115 yards vs. one of the stingiest defensive backfields in college…With cornerback Brandon Facyson assigned to stay with Jones all game, the receiver broke free from the defender five times for first downs…The Pirates failed to capitalize on big plays from their split end, as Jones had a 38-yarder nullified by off-setting penalties before pulling in a 33-yard toss in the first quarter…He had a 28-yard catch that was downed at Tech’s 9-yard line, but ECU failed to generate any points from that second quarter drive…Record Watch-Jones increased his career total to 3,091 receiving yards, moving past Dwayne Harris (3,001; 2007-10) for second in school annals. The record is 4,541 yards by Justin Hardy (2011-14)…Jones now has at least ten catches in eleven games and at least 100 receiving yards in thirteen contests…He also has at least one catch in 39- straight games and multiple catches in 41-of-42 career games with the Pirates…Head to Head Competition-CB#31-Brandon Facyson (6:02-197)-Four tackles (3 solos)…Jones Offensive Impact-The split end caught 10-of-14 targeted passes (71.43%) for 115 yards, as Pirates quarterbacks misfired on two throws and Tech defenders broke up two other attempts. He recorded five first downs and the Hokies were charged with one pass interference penalty on the receiver, as he converted one third-down play. Four of his receptions gained at least ten yards, including two for twenty yards or longer. He had two of his catches downed inside the red zone and recorded six key blocks…Team Offensive Impact-East Carolina completed 17-of-34 passes (50.00%) for 362 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, as the team had two passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 443 yards on a total of 69 plays (6.42 yards per attempt).

During his 17-catch performance vs. Central Florida, Jones tallied ten first downs, converting three fourth-down plays and two more on third-down snaps

Central Florida…Jones recorded his fourth double-digit catch performance while also reaching the century mark for yardage in the fourth of five 2016 appearances, as he collected seventeen passes for 137 yards and a touchdown, recording ten first-down grabs in the process…The split end had a quiet first quarter, with two grabs for 11 yards, but in the next frame, he set up Philip Nelson’s 16-yard touchdown toss to H-Back Deontre Farrior, as Jones contributed two key receptions, including one on third down to keep the 14-play, 84-yard drive alive…In the third quarter, Jones caught a fourth-&-2 pass between two defenders for a 6-yard first down before a fourth-&-3 targeted pass to the split end would see a UCF defender get flagged for interfering. A deep pass from Nelson to Jones that ECU thought was a touchdown was overruled, but the quarterback came right back to Jones with a 9-yard touchdown toss into the corner of the end zone during a 10-play, 56-yard series…Reserve quarterback Gardner Minshew was intercepted late in the fourth quarter, but Jones broke off his route, angling towards Shaquem Griffin before tackling the outside linebacker at the ECU 20 after a 13-yard runback. Central Florida would convert the turnover into a field goal…One last scoring drive saw Devin Anderson score on a 1-yard run, as Jones not only cleared room for the ball carrier to reach the end zone, but he converted a third-&-2 catch into a first down and a fourth-&-3 crossing pass for 5 yards to keep that 78-yard, 14-play series continuing before Jones capped the march by catching a two-point conversion…Record Watch-Jones now has a dozen career games with at least ten catches and fourteen outings with more than 100 yards receiving. He ran his streak of games with at least one reception to 40…128 of his 307 career receptions have gone for ten or more yards (38 for 20-plus)...Since East Carolina joined the American Athletic Association, Jones has recorded 245 receptions for 2,624 yards. His 245 catches set the new league standard, as he surpassed the old record of 233 receptions by Shaq Washington of Cincinnati (2013-15) and his 2,624 yards topped Washington’s old AAC mark of 2,528 yards…Head to Head Competition-CB#24-D.J. Killings (6:0-189)-Four solo tackles…Jones Offensive Impact-The split end caught 17-of-22 targeted passes (77.23%) for 137 yards and one touchdown, as Pirates quarterbacks misfired on four throws and UCF defenders broke up another attempt. He recorded ten first downs and UCF was charged with one pass interference penalty on the receiver, as he converted two third-down plays and three fourth-down snaps. Six of his receptions gained at least ten yards, including one for twenty yards or longer. He had key catches that led to two other touchdown drives while also scoring once and posted six knockdowns that included a touchdown-resulting block…Team Offensive Impact-East Carolina completed 38-of-70 passes (54.29%) for 488 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions, as the team had seven passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 521 yards on a total of 102 plays (5.11 yards per attempt).

South Florida…East Carolina escaped the inundation of Hurricane Matthew in eastern North Carolina for a day in sunny Florida but could not maintain a late surge and fell, 38-22, despite yet another stellar performance from Jones, whose eighteen receptions for the day are the second-highest game total by a Pirate (Jones also holds the top spot). He generated 145 yards with eleven first downs, reaching the end zone on a short toss…On the game’s opening drive, he converted a fourth-&-1 pass into a 4-yard first down before the drive stalled and ECU settled for a 40-yard field goal…His second quarter 11-yard catch also gave the team field position needed to kick a 49-yarder…In the second half, Jones opened a series with 18- and 10-yard receptions, converting one third-down play before snatching a lob from Gardner Minshew for a 1-yard touchdown at the end of that 8-play, 75-yard drive…Three more catches for a total of 21 yards by Jones set up a fourth quarter 31-yard three-pointer, as he converted one third-down play to keep the series alive…On their last drive, Jones converted a fourth-&-3 toss from Minshew into a 15-yard first down, but on fourth-&-5, another toss targeted for the split end was deflected, ending the day for ECU’s offense…Record Watch-Jones extended his streak to 41-straight games with at least one catch, fourth longest active streak in the nation...He has caught multiple passes in 43 of 44 career games (none vs. VT in 2013) and recorded his fifth double-triple (catches-yards) of the season in six games...Tallied 13th double-digit reception game and 15th triple-digit yard totals for his career and now has eleven career double-triple (catches-yards)...139 of 325 career receptions have gone for ten10 or more yards (39 for 20-plus)...Head to Head Competition-STRIKER#36-Nate Godwin (5:10-212)-Ten tackles (9 solos), one stop-for-loss…Jones Offensive Impact-The split end caught 18-of-25 targeted passes (72.00%) for 145 yards and one touchdown, as Pirates quarterbacks misfired on four throws and USF defenders broke up three other attempts. He recorded eleven first downs and converted three third-down plays, along with a fourth-down snap. Eight of his receptions gained at least ten yards, including one for twenty yards or longer. In addition to his touchdown grab, he had key catches that led to three field goals. He also tallied five knockdown blocks…Team Offensive Impact-East Carolina completed 33-of-56 passes (58.93%) for 308 yards, one touchdown and one interception, as the team had four passes deflected away by the opposition, gaining 476 yards on a total of 91 plays (5.23 yards per attempt).

2015 SEASON...The All-American third-team and All-American Athletic Conference first-team selection by The NFL Draft Report was a second-team All-AAC pick by the league’s coaches…Despite playing with a nagging left shoulder injury that became problematic later in the schedule, Jones started all twelve games at the “H” receiver position, as he became just the eighth Pirate to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards in a season, as he came just two receptions away from being the fourth player to reach a triple-digit catch total…Paced the team, as he caught 98-of-124 targeted passes (79.03%) for 1,099 yards (11.21 ypc) and five touchdowns…East Carolina quarterbacks misfired on eighteen of those tosses, including five under duress (QB pressures), as Jones dropped just one throw and the opposition deflected away seven other attempts…His success rate of 79.03% was the highest for any of the top-rated receivers in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision ranks…In addition to scoring five times, Jones had key receptions that led to sixteen other touchdown drives and seven field goals as a receiver, along with setting up another field goal based on his passing ability…That meant that he was involved in 29 of the team’s 50 scoring drives (58.0%; highest for any FBS starting receiver in 2015)…Ranked fourth nationally in receptions per game (8.2), 18th in receiving yards per game (91.6) and 25th in overall receiving yards…Jones had multiple catches in each game and reached double-digit reception totals six times, surpassing 100 reception yards on five occasions…In addition, he completed one pass for 34 yards, was sacked for a 6-yard loss on another passing occasion, recorded one assisted tackle after an ECU interception and returned one kickoff 23 yards…Among his 98 receptions, 61 were good for first downs (62.24%), as he converted nineteen third-down grabs and three more via fourth-down stops…Forty-six of his catches gained at least ten yards, including fifteen for twenty yards or longer…Seventeen of his receptions were downed inside the red zone…Penalized twice, tackled for a loss once and was stopped for no gain on two other passes targeted to him…What is impressive about Jones’ success rate is the fact that the team struggled with their passing game, despite averaging 281.25 yards per contest. East Carolina passers were sacked 25 times, leading to ten fumbles. They were pressured thirty times while throwing eight interceptions, as 47 other attempts were deflected by the opposition...Jones’ lone pass attempt for 34 yards was the key play on a drive that resulted in a field goal.

2014 SEASON...Named an All-American Athletic Conference first-team choice by The NFL Draft Report, the ECU Honor Roll and Dean’s List honoree was also the program’s recipient of the Rock Roggeman Heart-of-the-Pirate Award (which is symbolizes the most inspirational player) at the team’s annual awards banquet…Started nine of his thirteen appearances at the “H” (slot) receiver position, as he finished second on the team, catching 81-of-111 targeted passes (72.97%) for 830 yards (10.25 ypc) and five touchdowns…Completed one of his two pass attempts, as he added 477 yards on 24 kickoff returns (19.88 avg), along with an 8-yard punt runback…His pass catching success rate (72.97%) was tops for the conference…Eight of those pass attempts came while ECU quarterbacks were under duress (pressures), as those signal-callers misfired on thirteen other throws and nine of those targeted attempts were deflected by the opposition…Despite being assigned to tough catching chores on controlled routes, Jones recorded 42 first downs (51.85% of his grabs) that included converting eleven third-down plays and one fourth-down snap…29 of his receptions gained at least ten yards (35.80%), including ten for twenty yards or longer…Broke the initial tackle for big gains on sixteen of his catches and downed ten of his grabs inside the red zone…Was tackled twice for losses and once for no gain on his catches…In addition to his five scores, he had key receptions that set up twelve other touchdown drives and on four possessions that resulted in field goals…Finished among American Athletic Conference leaders in receptions (third), receptions per game (third), all-purpose yards (fourth/1,315 yards/101.2 ypg), receiving yards (fourth) and receiving yards per game (seventh)…Rated 29th nationally in receptions per game (6.2), as he produced three 100-yard receiving games (North Carolina Central, North Carolina, Southern Methodist)...The slot receiver averaged 99.5 receiving yards per game at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (47-597 in six contest), compared to a 33.3 average on the road (34-233 in seven games)…His 150 yards gained via kickoff returns vs. Cincinnati were the most by a Pirate since Chris Johnson had 153 yards against Boise State in the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl (2007) - a span of 88 games.

2013 SEASON...Jones garnered Conference USA All-Freshman Team honors, as the true rookie played in all thirteen games, as he started his final eight contests at the “H” receiver position…Selected as the wide receiver-of-the-year during the program’s annual postseason awards banquet, Jones placed second on the team after hauling in 62-of-76 targeted passes. His success rate of 81.58% topped not only all of the Conference USA performers, but also any wide-out in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision ranks (minimum of 50 catches) in 2013…Gained 604 yards (9.74 ypc) with five touchdowns, as he picked up 98 yards on four kickoff returns (24.5 avg)…Among his 76 targeted passes, East Carolina quarterbacks misfired six times and threw under duress (pressures) three times…Five of those throws were deflected by the opposition…Recorded 37 first downs (59.68% of his grabs) that included converting seven third-down throws and two fourth-down snaps…Broke free for big gains after the initial tackle on thirteen receptions and downed thirteen balls inside the red zone, including two near the goal line…Those big plays resulted in him setting up fourteen touchdown drives and two possessions that resulted in field goals, in addition to his five scoring grabs…Accounted for two 100-yard receiving performances (Tulsa and Marshall and had his first multiple touchdown performance vs. Ohio University ina Beef O’Brady’s Bowl victory…As a starter, he averaged 6.4 receptions and 64.3 yards per game, compared to averages of 2.2 catches and 18.0 yards as a reserve.

AGILITY TESTS...4.42 in the 40-yard dash (hand-held) 4.5 40-yard dash (electronic)…1.51 10-yard dash…2.57 20-yard dash…4.04 20-yard shuttle…11.26 60-yard shuttle…6.75 three-cone drill…36 ½-inch vertical jump… 11’-05” broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 19 times…475-pound back squat…306-pound power clean…260-pound push jerk…32 ¼-inch arm length…9 ½-inch hands…77-inch wingspan… Jones was cited by ECU head strength coach Jeff Connors as the most improved member of the program (physical development) after his sophomore year.

HIGH SCHOOL...Jones attended Stephen F. Austin (Austin, Tx.) High School, playing football for head coach Mike Rosenthal, a former Notre Dame offensive lineman, who went on to play in the National Football League for the New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Miami Dolphins...In addition to his success on the gridiron, the three-star football recruit (Scout.com and ESPN.com) was also a standout in track…As a junior, Jones shared District 15-5A Newcomer-of-the-Year honors with Bowie High’s junior running back Gino Jonassaint…Playing a variety of roles, in addition to starting as a receiver, he amassed 41 catches for 359 yards and four touchdowns, adding 55 yards and a score on 42 rushing attempts, as he completed 27-of-53 passes (50.9%) for 280 yards with four touchdowns, along with four interceptions in 2011...As a senior, the first-team All-District Class 15-5A selection as a wide receiver and kick returner, was one of only three receivers to earn a spot on the Austin American-Statesman's All-Central Texas 2012 football team, as the All-Austin Area Team pick collected 36 passes for 439 yards (12.2 ypr) and six touchdowns, coming up with fourteen kick returns for 159 yards (11.4 avg), as he rushed for an additional 204 yards on 41 carries and completed three-of-six passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. He also averaged 30.8 yards on eighteen punts.

Senior Season Football Highlights…Jones gained 99 yards on five catches, including a 52-yard touchdown on a toss from John Mansour, adding 44 yards on six carries vs. Cedar Ridge…Averaged 42.3 yards on three punts vs. Pfugerville…Made five grabs for 65 yards with 10- and 2-yard touch-downs in a 46-21 defeat of Westwood and completed both pass attempts, including a 26-yard scoring strike to Charles Schneider while coming up with 76 yards on eleven carries vs. McNeil… Totaled 77 yards on seven catches with a 28-yard touchdown, along with punting six times, placing one inside the 20-yard line, adding 66 yards on two kickoff returns vs. Bowie…Was the recipient of touchdown passes for 31- and 13 yards in the Akins clash, as he ended that day with five grabs for 48 yards…Had a 32-yard touchdown vs. Anderson and pulled down six tosses for 52 yards vs. Del Valle, as he also gained 70 yards on a kickoff return.

Junior Season Football Highlights…Jones made his Maroons debut by hauling in ten passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns vs. Waco…Completed 9-of-15 passes for 180 yards and four scores, including a 67-yarder, as he rushed 13 times for 53 yards vs. Akins…Hit on 10-of-18 throws for 59 yards vs. Bowie and ran for a 1-yard touchdown in the Round Rock Westwood game…Caught five passes for 60 yards and a 33-yard touchdown vs. Del Valle and had ten receptions for 73 yards in the Anderson contest.

Track Career Highlights…Jones competed in the triple jump and as a member of the Maroons relay teams…During the 2013 outdoor season, he captured the district title in the triple jump (44’-04”) at the Austin ISD Boys Invitational (March 21st), adding the long jump crown with a 20’-9.25” mark…Finished seventh in the 200 meters (24.02) at that event…Joined Desmond Barrett, Quincy Reese and Quinta Goode in winning the 4x100 relay title (43.65) and was part of the same unit that finished second in the 4x200 relays (1:32.04).

PERSONAL...Jones is a Communications major who has earned East Carolina University Honor Roll and Dean’s List accolades for work in the classroom…Also earned Capital One Academic All-District (first-team) honors during the 2014 season…The student enjoys acting and dancing, and has served as co-master of ceremonies for the 2015 ECU Goldspy’s (an annual awards presentation and ceremony emulating the ESPY’s) and starred in an athletics department promotional video in 2016 entitled Can’t Stop The Feeling of Pirate Pride! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ffq0n13rvc). Jones comes from a sports-oriented family, as his brother, Cayleb, is currently in training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles. Cayleb started his college career with the Texas Longhorns, but later sat out the 2013 season after leaving the university and transferring to the University of Arizona. Jones instantly became Arizona's most prolific receiver, as he caught 73 balls for 1,019 yards in his first year in Rich Rodriguez' system. Big things were expected in 2015, but with inconsistent quarterback play combined with Pac-12 defenses focusing on taking him away, Jones' numbers dropped in his redshirt campaign. He managed to get to 55 catches and 904 yards. On December 27th, 2015, he officially decided to leave Arizona. He entered the 2016 draft, but was not selected, joining the Eagles as a free agent wide receiver…Cousin, Emory Blake, played wide receiver at Auburn…Isaiah and Cayleb’s father, Robert Jones, was an All-American linebacker and Butkus Award finalist at East Carolina (1989-91) before spending ten seasons in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys (1992-95), St. Louis Rams (1996-97), Miami Dolphins (1998-2000) and Washington Redskins (2001). Robert was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 1992 NFL Draft, becoming the first player from East Carolina University to be drafted that high. The team moved Ken Norton Jr. to outside linebacker, allowing him to become the second rookie (Eugene Lockhart) in Cowboys history to start at middle linebacker, and the second rookie (Lee Roy Jordan) linebacker in franchise history to start in a season-opener. He helped the Cowboys establish the top defense in the league in 1992, was named NFC Rookie of the Year and was selected to the NFL all-rookie team. In 1994, he had the best year of his career, going on to be selected to the Pro Bowl, after registering 162 tackles (then the fourth-highest single season total in Cowboys history) and four passes defended while starting all 16 games at middle linebacker. During his four seasons with the Cowboys, Jones helped the Cowboys win Super Bowl XXVII, Super Bowl XXVIII and Super Bowl XXX. Currently, Robert is the only consensus (AP, Scripps-Howard, Football News, Walter Camp, Kodak, College Football Writers Association, College & Pro Football Newsweekly) All-American performer (1991) in the history of the ECU program…Isaiah and Cayleb’s uncle, Jeff Blake, was a quarterback at East Carolina (1988-91) and finished seventh in the 1991 Heisman Trophy balloting. Blake was drafted by the Jets in 1992 and also played for the Bengals (1994-99), Saints (2000-01), Ravens (2002), Cardinals (2003), Eagles (2004) and Bears (2005)...Their younger brother, Levi, is currently a standout linebacker at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas…Their cousin, Torre Blake, plays for the Eat Carolina Pirates volleyball team...The son of Maneesha and Robert Jones, he was born Isaiah Avery Jones on March 30th, 1995, in Dallas Texas…Nicknamed “Zay,” he resides in Austin, Texas.

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