TE Cook still mixing ingredients

In a deep class of pass catching tight ends, South Carolina's Jared Cook has the same thing every one of the other prospects at his position has, a good set of hands. He also has something most of them don't, elite physical skills.

A day before his combine workout in late February, Cook was asked what he expected to run for a 40-time.

"I'm not sure yet," he said. "Hopefully I can get in the 4.4s."

The comment was met with some chuckles, as most of the reporters gathered around him didn't see any way that an almost 6'5" and 246-pound tight end would put up a time that fast.

After running a 4.49, posting a ridiculous 41-inch vertical leap and better than 10 feet on the broad jump (10'3") the NFL reporters weren't laughing. NFL scouts were taking greater notice too with Cook subsequently moving up on some draft boards.

"I'm a fast guy that can stretch the field well, catch the ball well, gets open well," said Cook plainly.

No one will argue that statement as the converted wide receiver has a physical skill set for the tight end position that will create mismatches at the NFL level as well.

"If you want a receiving tight end, yeah Jared Cook could do that," said ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper. "Great pass catcher. He averaged almost 16 yards a catch during his career and he had great workouts. So Jared Cook is going to give you a great pass catcher."

Cook's transition from receiver to tight end began in his redshirt freshman season when head coach Steve Spurrier suggested the position switch.

"He asked me if I wanted to try something new and that it would help the team a lot. I told him, 'Anything to help the team, then I'm up for it,'" said Cook. "So I made the jump."

Weighing just 205 pounds, Cook had to hit the weights hard and revamp his nutrition plan. By the time his redshirt freshman season was over Cook was 215. As a sophomore he added 10 more pounds to get to 225, and played most of his junior year at 235. He reported to the combine at 247 pounds before running his 4.49 40-time.

"I'm used to carrying it now, but this is the heaviest I've been so far," he said. "At first it was hard to put on the weight because I'm not used to eating that much and working out that much. But the meals I eat are a lot leaner so I've put more muscle on. I feel as healthy as I've ever been."

The parts of his game that are not healthy however, are his blocking and his route running. According to scouts Cook relies on his athletic ability too much and gets caught freelancing in his routes, which will not fly in the NFL.

As for his blocking, that suffers too. It's mainly because he was rarely asked to do it for the Gamecocks, but he's willing to work at it.

"I need to work on my lower body strength and my blocking," admitted Cook. "I've only had a year to develop as a blocker, but I think put in the right system and getting with the right coaches I could be a great blocker and a complete player, which is what I'm striving to be."

"Cook wants to prove he can block, so he's got an attitude to prove he can do it," said Kiper. "Whether he does it (successfully) remains to be seen."

Without a long track record of production NFL talent evaluators are forced to go off of athletic ability and upside with Cook, which can sometimes be a dangerous game. Scouts will no doubt be asking if Cook is one of the classic, 'Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane' players.

But with good intangibles and a solid work ethic, Cook's athleticism is likely to convince some team to make him a second round pick and mold him into a game breaking talent in the NFL.

"Anywhere I could play would be an honor for me," said Cook. "It's been a dream of mine ever since I was a kid."

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