NC State coach Tom O’Brien knew about linebacker Audie Cole long before he arrived in Raleigh. O’Brien recruited Cole out of Monroe, Mich., while he was still head coach at Boston College.
Fortunately for NC State, Cole followed O’Brien to Raleigh.
“Everybody knows, ‘Don’t you worry, don’t you fear, Audie Cole will soon be here,’” said linebackers coach Jon Tenuta.
There doesn’t seem to be much Cole can’t do. He’s a former high school quarterback who has also played baseball, basketball, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, and is even a golden glove winner in boxing. He enters Saturday’s game at Clemson coming off tying for a team-high eight tackles in the 28-24 upset of Florida State. He ranks third on the team in tackles and third in tackles for loss.
“He’s typical of the guys we used to recruit at BC, in that he was a multiple position player in high school, he had great character, great leadership qualities in high school, and could be a multiple position player for you so that he wouldn’t have to be pigeonholed into one spot,” O’Brien said. “… It’s due to him and his work ethic and how he’s worked so hard to become the football player he has. He’s been a great surprise and has been doing a great job for us.”
Never before had Cole dominated a game like he did against Central Florida on Sept. 11. Cole was credited with a dozen tackles, including nine solo, a 10-yard sack and two other tackles for loss. He also pulled down his first career interception and forced a fumble on a play that ended up being overturned. Cole also had two sacks against Virginia Tech, and 12 tackles against Central Florida.
“It’s being a year older, understanding a lot more and the big thing that’s helped me out a lot is having Nate (Irving) and Terrell (Manning) playing really well next to me,” Cole said. “I think we’re all playing pretty good this year. Having those two next to me is making me a better player.”
Cole entered this season as the only returning starter on defense who was an upperclassman. His leadership has been key to the Wolfpack’s relevance in the Atlantic Division race. He was the team’s leading tackler a year ago and entered this season aiming for 100 tackles. With Nate Irving back, and sophomore Terrell Manning improving, Cole has had more help this year. He still has 52 tackles, including 8.5 for loss.
“We’re all making plays and as long as we’re making plays and making stops, I don’t really care how many I get,” he said. “Together all three of us are playing great.”
Tenuta said he has three of the better linebackers in the ACC, and Cole has been a big part of their improvement as a group.
“His mental toughness and his approach to football, and the way he understands where everybody fits and what everybody has to do, he’s a leader in his own way,” Tenuta said. “He’s not a real vocal guy. The guy is tough as nails and he just enjoys playing the game.”