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Prospect Preview: LB Cole packs a punch

Posted Apr 6, 2012

One measurable can sometimes be enough to sink a draft prospect a round or two even if their game tape shows something else. Measurables are a big part of projecting college prospects to the NFL, especially speed. North Carolina State LB Audie Cole has NFL size, production and football smarts. He’d likely be a second-round pick if he hadn’t run in the high 4.7s at his pro day or a 4.81 at the Combine. Most project him as a mid-round selection, but someone is going to get a heck of a player.

Cole (6’4” 246) played strong side linebacker for the Wolfpack his first two seasons as a starter leading the team in tackles in 2009 and 2010, but was transitioned to middle linebacker in 2011 to run the defense.

"I loved playing the ‘SAM’ linebacker,” said Cole. “I thought it was a great position and I thought I did well at it. At ‘Mike’ linebacker I struggled but I felt I got better as the year went on. They wanted me to make the calls and be in the middle. It wasn't like they really wanted me at middle linebacker, but they needed me."

It didn’t seem to faze Cole much as he led the team in tackles (108) for a third straight season along with 5.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. Those fumbles a likely byproduct of Cole’s explosive tackling, further bolstered by his 35-inch vertical leap at the Combine.

With a body type similar to Green Bay LB Clay Matthews and flowing blond locks to boot, Cole has heard the comparisons, though he claims to have been called Thor more, the Nordic-looking comic strip hero with the golden hammer.

Cole’s golden hammer were his hands when he had a short stint as a Golden Gloves boxer. Bored with nothing to do in high school between football and baseball season, the linebacker took up boxing.

“At first I wasn't planning on even fighting it was just something to do, something to try out for,” said the Michigan native. “I ended up sparring. I went up to Detroit and sparred with a lot of people. I went to Toledo and sparred with a lot of people. Every day I was going somewhere and fighting someone.”

Cole only had three official fights, but his 10-inch hands scored him a pair of knockouts. He ended up winning the Golden Gloves regional.

Despite his 40 time Cole shows on tape that he’s capable in coverage, which is helped by a 78-inch wingspan and would be a fit as an outside backer in an over or under front. For Cole, who is projected as a fourth or fifth-round prospect, it really doesn’t matter where he plays. The former high school quarterback knows how to make the best of changes.

“In high school I hardly played any defense,” he said. “My coaches in college when they recruited me told me I will never play quarterback again, and that I’m going to play linebacker. I said, ‘I don't care what position I play. I want to play the best football I can, it doesn’t matter what position.’ It worked out."