- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series will take a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.
No. 30 Timothy Cole
Recruitment rewind: Cole, a four-star linebacker from Brenham, Texas, always planned to go to college with high school teammate Malcom Brown. Many thought that college might be in College Station, as Texas A&M was only 40 minutes from home. But after taking visits throughout the spring, Cole and Brown made their decision together in April 2011 at Texas' spring game. In his three years starting at Brenham, Cole racked up 184 tackles, 75 TFLs and 20 sacks.
Career so far: Cole redshirted in 2012 and has bulked up nearly 20 pounds during his time on campus. He played in 11 games last season and made his first career start when then-new DC Greg Robinson elevated him to first string for the Iowa State game. Cole finished with 10 tackles and one pass breakup in his debut season. Because of a slew of injuries to his fellow linebackers, Cole worked with the No. 1 defense this spring and in the spring game.
Best-case scenario for 2014: If the 6-foot-2, 232-pound Cole can inspire the confidence of new linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary, he could play a lot this fall. He's not the biggest or fastest member of Texas' linebacker corps, but Cole can hit and has good instincts. Charlie Strong won't be afraid to roll out a 3-4 look on defense if he has an advantage, and that could provide Cole a chance to prove himself.
Worst-case scenario for 2014: The knock on Cole's performance in the start against Iowa State was how uncomfortable he looked while trying to make plays in space. He was still learning and just trying to stay above water. Once everyone gets healthy (if that's possible), Texas should have enough bodies at linebacker that Cole won't be guaranteed anything in 2014. He might have to settle for a backup role and some special-teams work.
Future expectations: A year from now, Cole will likely be one of only three upperclassman linebackers on the roster. His time will come. He just needs to do as much as he can this year to prepare. For that reason, it's kind of imperative that he continues to develop. Texas has young guys behind him waiting for their chance, but so far none of them have stepped foot on the field. If Cole does his job and does it well, he'll be in line for a better one in 2015.