The 6-foot, 180-pound Cole will be just one of several young receivers who will be asked to make plays for the Cowboys now that Adarius Bowman is playing in the Canadian Football League. Besides Dez Bryant
(43 catches for 622 yards and six touchdowns), the Cowboys return just three wide receivers who were on the receiving end of Zac Robinson
throws a year ago – Jeremy Broadway
(13 receptions), Damian Davis
(two catches) and Cole (two catches).
"Coach Troop (Trooper Taylor) every day reminds us that we have a chance to make a different this year," said Cole, the sophomore from Cedar Hill, Texas who saw action is six games in 2007. "Everybody knows about Dez and what he can do but no one is talking about the other receivers. So we kinda have a chip on our shoulders. We want to show everyone what we can do."
Taylor is excited about the possibility of seeing what Cole can do with the ball in his hands.
"Will has got a lot of potential," Taylor said during Media Day on Saturday. "The quote I tell him is, ‘The player who won't do it, is the player who can't do it.' Will has all the ability, he has all the talent, and now it's my job to teach him what to do and he has to go out there and do it.
"I have to push him, and we go at it almost every day, but I'm not going to lower the bar. I'm going to raise it. Like I told him, I plan on being there and now he needs to decide what he wants to do because he can be as good as (any receiver we have). But he's got to get focused, he's got to produce and he's got to understand that I am not going to accept mediocrity. You can't do it right one day and then the next day go back. I think he realizes that now. I think in the beginning he thought I was just picking on him but what I've told him is when I stop talking to you, that's when need to worry. If I'm getting on you and correcting you, that's a good thing."
But Taylor almost never got the chance to coach Cole. As a senior, he ran for nearly 2,900 yards and passed for more than 1,600 yards in leading Cedar Hill to the Class 5A state title in Texas while earning Texas Football
magazine Player of the Year honors. In the state championship victory, Cole rushed for 290 yards, including touchdowns from 75, 71 and 63 yards.
After starring at Cedar Hill, sitting on the sidelines wasn't easy as a freshman. "Every freshman has their days in their first year of college. I was struggling a little bit with being homesick and also a little bit with how much I played," Cole said. "I wouldn't say I didn't want to be here but I didn't buy into the play for the team (concept). Once I realized that and I matured a little bit things changed.
"It's real tough especially when you were the
player on your high school team. Right now, I'm trying to show that I'm mature enough and buying into the team comes first. High school is over with and now I'm ready to try to make a name for myself in college," Cole continued.
Taylor believes that Cole could be the type of player that forces Big 12 defense to pay attention to more than just Bryant and Cowboy tight end Brandon Pettigrew
"I think he's starting to realize now that he just can't get by on athletic ability alone, you've (also) got to have fundamentals," the Cowboy assistant coach says. "Here's what we preach in our room (with the receivers): perfect alignment, perfect assignment and then unbelievable effort. What he's going to see is we're not going to put you out there until you do it our way. It's not going to be a compromise where he got part of it right. When he's doing everything right, and we can trust him, then we're going to put him out there and he'll have the opportunity."
Cole has impressed the coaching staff through the first few practices of the fall.
"I think he fits in because he's a big-play guy. When he's got the ball in his hands, he can do things that I don't have a drill for. I don't have a drill for making moves like that (wiggling his hands) to go make plays," Taylor says. "But what he's got to understand is that when he doesn't have the ball, he's got to buy into the team concept and block for the running back and go block for fellow receivers.
"He has big-play potential but we're not going to put him in just on pass plays, and I think he understands that. If he doesn't, then he'll be standing over there with me (on the sidelines). The one thing they all like to do is play the game. I try to emphasize that it's not your right or your privilege to be out there. You've got to earn the right every day, and I think the guys are buying into that.
"I know for a fact the other guys understand how good he is because they're spending extra time with him. They're encouraging him by saying, ‘Come on, Will. We've got to get this done. You're no longer a freshman and can't hide behind being a freshman.' They're challenging him."
Just where do Cole and the other Cowboy receivers compare with Meachem and some of the other big-time receivers that Taylor coached at Tennessee?
"To be honest with you, I can answer that question better after the season. Here's the one thing I knew at Tennessee, those guys were going to make plays in the game. Some guys can be practice players but get them in a game and they won't get it done," he says. "I used to have a dog that behind the fence he would bark real loud but as soon as you'd open the gate he'd run under the porch. I want to find out what these guys are going to do when we open the gate, and see what they're going to do on game day. But athletic-wise, they're as talented as the guys we had (at Tennessee)."
Oklahoma State assistant coach Trooper Taylor knows a talented wide receiver when he sees one. He coached current New Orleans Saint Robert Meachem at the University of Tennessee and was the wide receivers coach of Tennessee Titan Roydell Williams while at Tulane. The OSU wide receivers coach likes what he sees from the inexperienced Cowboy receiving corp, including sophomore Will Cole.