Mason Cole, at the NFL Combine, discusses the differences between tackle and an interior line position. John Niyo, Detroit News


Indianapolis — This is the time of year where NFL draft prospects’ lives get turned inside-out as teams try to see exactly what they’re made of before they make a major investment.

But for Michigan’s Mason Cole, that’s exactly what he’s banking on as he goes through workouts and interviews here at the NFL scouting combine.

Cole started and finished his career at left tackle for the Wolverines, but he played a more natural position — center — his junior year. And it’s that versatility, along with his comfort level playing in Jim Harbaugh’s pro-style offense, that should help him get drafted somewhere in the middle rounds of April’s draft.

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“That’s where most teams are looking at me, either center or guard,” said Cole, who set a school record with 51 consecutive starts. “And that’s kind of why I switched to center my junior year. One, because of needs. And two, because Coach Harbaugh and Coach (Tim) Drevno thought it’d be best for my career to do it. And it turned out great.

“To play tackle, you’ve gotta be athletic. And being able to use that and carry it over to play inside, I think it’s huge. Not being as much of a mauler, it’s more using your athleticism to win drills, and win games.”


Former Michigan offensive lineman discusses his goal of playing in the NFL. John Niyo, Detroit News

Cole said he’s gotten advice from former Michigan teammate and current Lions guard/center Graham Glasgow, who was among the players working out with him at the EXOS training center in San Diego this winter. And like Glasgow, he thinks his experience in playing for Harbaugh will help him.

“I mean, playing for Coach Harbaugh and that whole staff and running the offense that we ran, I don’t think there’s a better place in the country to play if you want to prepare for an NFL offense,” Cole said. “Because we were running one, in terms of everything we were doing. So playing for him definitely gives me a leg up.”

Cole has plenty of company as one of four Big Ten centers here at the combine, along with Ohio State’s Billy Price, Iowa’s James Daniels and Michigan State’s Brian Allen, who was standing at a podium next to him during Thursday’s media session.


Former Michigan offensive lineman talks about playing center or guard in the NFL. John Niyo, Detroit News

Sexual assault cases

Allen, a potential late-round draft pick, said he’s been asked by at least a couple NFL teams about recent media reports focusing on Michigan State’s handling of sexual assault cases involving the football and basketball programs.

“The Michigan State they write about, I don’t know that Michigan State,” Allen said, while vouching for both Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo.

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"I’m not worried about it,” he added. “The integrity of our program is at the pedestal. We’ve always conducted ourselves the right way. I’ve always had teammates who are better people than athletes, and I’m friends with guys on the basketball team and it’s the same thing there. It’s kind of tough to read all of it, but we know who we are and we know what we stand for there.”

Staff changes

The Lions announced more staff changes Thursday, mostly involving their scouting staff.

Ron Miles will be the new college scouting coordinator, replacing Joe Kelleher, who moves to the pro scouting department. And former Patriots linebacker Roman Phifer was hired as an area scout. The team also added former NFL quarterback Dylan Thompson as its "character coach" in charge of team development. Galen Duncan, the Lions' previous director of player development, left the team late last season to take a job with the Sacramento Kings.