UM's Mason Cole expects hometown throng at Outback Bowl

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan offensive lineman Mason Cole expects cheering section of 90 or so members at Monday's Outback Bowl.

Tampa, Fla. — It will be impossible to miss the large group of Mason Cole supporters who will attend his final college game, the Outback Bowl, on New Year’s Day.

Cole grew up in Tarpon Springs, about 45 minutes from Raymond James Stadium, where Michigan will face South Carolina.

His parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and many family members along with high school friends will total about 90, Cole said Wednesday after practice.

“You probably won’t miss them,” Cole said, laughing.

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The group had shirts made to commemorate the day.

This will be Cole’s last game at Michigan and his program record-tying 51st start. He did not miss a start in high school either, he said.

“I don’t think there is a secret,” he said. “A lot of it is just good luck. A lot of it is to our strength coaches and trainers. You don’t see what they do on Sundays after games and throughout the week and through the offseason.”

Cole has come close only once to missing a start and that was last year's Michigan State game. He was very sick and didn’t practice until two days before the game and was cleared to play.

Ruiz gets the start

Freshman Cesar Ruiz apparently has locked down the right guard spot and will make his fifth-straight start at the position in the Outback Bowl, according to offensive coordinator Tim Drevno.

Sophomore Michael Onwenu suffered an injury against Rutgers and was replaced by Ruiz, a product of nearby IMG Academy and the nation’s top-rated center in the 2017 class. Although Onwenu was cleared to play for the Wisconsin game, Ruiz has remained in the starting role.

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“Mike was working through something there for a while, and Cesar's really grabbed the bull by the horns, and knowing his assignments and playing with great initial quickness, just staying in his blocks," Drevno said Wednesday after bowl practice. "It's not that Mike couldn't do that, but (Ruiz) did it over and over in time, and has really settled in nicely.

“And you want the cohesiveness up front on the line (for the bowl game), with the guys working together. That's an important factor.”

Twitter: @chengelis