August 25, 2013

Black Bears gifted with sacks of Cole

Again healthy after last year's knee injury, the defensive end will resume torturing quarterbacks.

By Glenn Jordan gjordan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ORONO - University of Maine wide receiver John Ebeling sprinted off the line of scrimmage, threw a head fake at a safety, planted his outside foot and tweeeeet!

click image to enlarge

Although Michael Cole missed most of 2012, his seven sacks still led the CAA, giving him a three-year total of 21 that puts him within range of UMaine’s career mark of 27 1⁄2.

University of Maine Photo

Not again.

"It's unbelievable," said Ebeling of his fellow senior teammate, defensive end Michael Cole. "At least three times a practice the whistle is getting blown before we're even into our route because he's gotten a sack. It's unbelievable how fast he can get to the quarterback."

Ask someone from Boston College, against whom Cole notched two sacks and forced a fumble in last year's season opener.

Or someone from Delaware, which saw Cole tackle the quarterback five times and force another fumble in a 26-3 Maine victory.

"My picture of Mike is that he is just relentless," said Black Bears Coach Jack Cosgrove. "Don't get me wrong. There's a skill set there. He uses his hands very well. But his tenacity, his motor, is what separates him and allows him to be the success he's been."

Cole's motor returned to full throttle in Tuesday's intrasquad scrimmage after being idle for 10 months. Late in the fourth quarter of that Delaware game last October, Cole was pursuing his sixth sack when he felt three pops over the top of his left kneecap.

The tendon that connects his quadriceps muscle to his kneecap had torn.

"It just wouldn't work after that," he said.

His parents, who had made the trip to Newark from their home in North Brunswick, N.J., already had left their seats in the bleachers because they figured Cole's day was done. Instead, his season was done.

He missed the last six games, but his seven sacks still led the Colonial Athletic Association in that category.

As a sophomore, he also led the CAA in sacks with 11. Add in three sacks from 2010 -- when he was a red-shirt freshman who earned a starting job in the seventh game after seeing action as a reserve in the first six -- and Cole enters his senior year with 21 career sacks and within reach of Maine's career leader.

Mike Denino, who played from 1986 to 1989, accumulated 271/2 sacks.

"It was never a goal to start," said the soft-spoken Cole, "but once the number started piling up, people bring it to your attention. It would be nice to have, to leave here with that."

Cole also blocked four kicks in 2011 and one in 2010. Cosgrove still marvels at Maine's good fortune in attracting such an impressive playmaker to Orono. Fellow New Jersey native Pushaun Brown, who graduated from North Brunswick High a year before Cole, became a 1,000-yard rusher for the Black Bears.

"The biggest factors were that (Brown) was up here and Maine, they had made the (NCAA) playoffs (in 2008)," Cole said. "(Orono) takes a little bit to get used to, but I've grown and adapted to it and I've really enjoyed my time up here."

Originally recruited as an offensive tackle, Cole was moved to defensive tackle and then, in his second year on campus, to defensive end. He had never suffered a significant injury until last October, and the resulting rehabilitation progress was slow and, at times, frustrating. He missed spring practice and did not resume full contact until after the first preseason scrimmage earlier this month.

"The first practice back, he's making plays and you could see how much he missed it, how energized he is and how ready he is to get to Norfolk (Va.) and get on that game field again," said teammate Trevor Bates, a sophomore end/linebacker from Westbrook.

(Continued on page 2)

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