04/30/2012 - A closer look at the Vikings' picks: Round 7/210 - Audie Cole, ILB, 6-4, 246, North Carolina State...A big middle linebacker who runs a 4.8, he'll help on special teams and provide backup behind middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley. - The Sports Xchange
Despite leading the team in tackles in 2009 with 85 stops, Cole was overshadowed this past season by the emotional return and solid play from former All-ACC standout Nate Irving. With Irving moving on to the Denver Broncos, Cole is sliding over from his customary strongside position to middle linebacker, where his instincts and prototypical size could make him a star.
How Cole takes to his new position will play a critical role not only in the Wolfpack's chances at success in the ACC this year but in determining his own position and grade at the pro level. Cole locates the ball quickly, but too often took questionable angles and struggled, at times, making secure open-field tackles. Some -- but not all -- of this can be attributed to the fact that Cole was forced to wear a cast over a broken right hand for much of last season.
With his size and athleticism, Cole will be intriguing to 4-3 and 3-4 teams, alike. To match his former teammate Irving's draft position, however, he'll need to iron out some of the wrinkles to his game in 2011.
Read and React: Good instincts. Quick to read run, showing good agility and speed to get past blockers and to the ball. Capable of remaining on the field in passing situations because of his anticipatory skills. Keeps his head on a swivel and is often moving toward the correct receiver as the ball is being thrown as he reads the quarterback's eyes well.
Pass defense: Well experienced in coverage due to his experience at strongside linebacker. Gets a good, strong jam on the tight end/receiver. Can be too grabby, however, which could result in holding calls at the NFL level. Reads the quarterback's eyes and anticipates well. Good agility and speed for the position. Likely will be viewed by some 4-3 teams as a legitimate candidate to move back to OLB due to his ability in coverage.
Pass rush: A work in progress in this area. Has good burst upfield off the snap and can beat the tackle/back on the speed rush. Shows some flexibility to dip his shoulder under the reach of the tackle, but has only average bend to scrape the line of scrimmage. Good closing speed and has the long arms to "catch" elusive QBs who try to elude him. Good power for the bull rush. Keeps his legs churning and finds gaps to penetrate. Could improve significantly in this area with better use of hands and in developing some pass rush moves. Almost strictly speed or bull rush, at this point.
Run defense: Good key and diagnosis skills. Attacks the line of scrimmage and is willing to mix it up with blockers, though he needs to improve his hand placement, disengagment when he does so. A bit inconsistent with his angles. Will cut it too close and leave opportunities for cutback lanes when he underestimates the ball-carrier's athleticism. Can be too hesitant, at times, as well, especially when in pursuit down the sideline as he has a tendency to get caught up in the trash despite good hustle.
Tackling: A bit inconsistent in this area last season, though, in his defense, some of this was due to the fact that wore a cast over a broke right hand last year. Even prior to the injury, however, Cole relies on the explosiveness he generates as a hitter and his long arms to wrap loosely around the ball-carrier. Inconsistent with his angles. Appears to have the physical skills to make significant improvement in this area as a senior -- and will have to if he is to be a top 100 pick.
Intangibles: A three-sport athlete in high school (football, basketball, baseball) who was also a Golden Gloves winner as a boxer. Recipient of North Carolina State's Al Michaels Award in 2009, which is given to the player who "puts team before self." Started all 25 games of the 2009-10 seasons at SAM, but is expected to move to middle linebacker in 2011. Suffered a broken right hand against Florida State and rebroke it over the final four games. He had to wear a cast on it for much of the season, including the bowl win over West Virginia and for three months following the season.