By David Sugarman (@David_Sugarman2)
We’re now just a stones throw away from opening day and the spots in our countdown are getting a little closer to single digits. Today we tackle a pair of players who share the same digits and share a similar status at their respective positions. One will be looking for time in a talented secondary, the other will be looking to carve out a larger role for himself in a running back room that recently lost it’s starter in Camion Patrick. Let’s dive into Jameel Cook Jr. and Cole Gest.
Jameel Cook Jr. (Redshirt Sophomore)
Weight: 200 pounds
Hometown: Missouri City, Texas
Position: Defensive back
Indiana’s secondary took a huge step forward in 2016 and there were a number of reasons for that. Unfortunately one player who was not part of any of those reasons was Jameel Cook Jr. Through his first two season in Bloomington the injury bug has taken a good bite out of Cook’s career. During his freshman season in 2015, after eight games Cook’s season was cut short due to injury. Cook had racked up just 16 tackles, but had his most memorable moment in an early season game against FIU. A 96-yard pick six to put the game away in the fourth quarter. It was the longest return in the conference in 2015 and was tied for fourth both in the program and in the nation historically. Cook hasn’t been on the field much, but when he has his presence has been impactful.
Sadly Cook’s sophomore campaign was cut even shorter than his freshman season. During the opener versus FIU he suffered a season-ending injury, but would be granted a medical redshirt. A now healthy Cook returns to a talented secondary that will be difficult to break into and a room full of players that got a year of experience in Tom Allen’s system that he didn’t. Cook could have a bigger role in 2018, but barring injury expect him to be used mainly in nickel situations like he was his freshman year, though if Cook is up to speed on Allen’s playbook, he’s an excellent guy to have on the depth chart. And of course as we’ve seen, Cook only needs one play to make his presence known.
Cole Gest (Redshirt Freshman)
Weight: 195 pounds
Hometown: Lyndhurst, Ohio
Position: Running back
The running back conversation got a lot more interesting in the past few weeks. With Camion Patrick being granted a medical hardship, Mike Majette slid into the number one back spot on the depth chart, but it’s not that simple. Majette isn’t a big, bruising back and has only had one game in his career with more than 10 carries. It’ll be on Gest to soften the work load and give Majette a break here and there.
In 2016 Gest saw good time as a backup through the first leg of the season, before going down with an ankle injury in the third game against Wake Forest and being done for the season. Gest carried the ball 10 times for 47 yards, a very solid average of nearly five yards per carry. Gest also provided help on special teams returning five kicks for 110 yards.
While he’s been seen sparingly in his first two seasons, Gest was a feared commodity at St. Edward High School in Ohio. He helped St. Edward to two state championships and finished his career as the school’s all-time leading rusher, racking up nearly 4,000 yards and scoring a whopping 50 career rushing touchdowns.
Gest won’t be the catalyst for Indiana’s running game, but with Patrick gone and Majette learning what it takes to be a starter, Gest will play an important role. Expect to see a lot of Gest this season, particularly if Majette is struggling with the transition to the full time number one back. Keep an eye out for Gest on special teams returning kicks as well. If Indiana’s dynamic passing game is to reach it’s full potential, the running game needs to at least be middle of the pack in the Big Ten, the pressure is on Gest and company to deliver a legitimate running game without a legitimate number one back.
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