IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa linebacker Mel Cole is a contradiction on a football team making a lot of noise this fall.
The Hawkeyes, who raced to No. 7 nationally and the top of the Big Ten standings before last Saturday's loss to Minnesota, have been led to a 5-2 record this season by flamboyant coach Hayden Fry, a razzle-dazzle offense and a steady but often spectacular defense.
But one of the mainstays of that defense is Cole -- a reserved 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior from Elgin, Ill., who has been selected as UPI's Midwest Defensive Player of the Week.
Cole recorded 10 solo tackles, notched two assists, recovered one fumble and intercepted one pass in the Hawkeyes' 12-10 loss to the Gophers.
'That's something I've just been working on real tough; something I've always had,' Cole says of his ability to be around the ball. 'I like to get around the ball.'
Linebacker Coach Barry Alvarez agrees.
'It's a knack he's always had,' Alvarez said. 'He plays both (the pass and the run) very well. If you watch the film, you can see he sees the play developing in front of him; he's positioning himself.'
Cole's end zone interception late in the third quarter against Michigan led to the winning drive in the Hawkeyes' 9-7 victory over the Wolverines two weeks ago.
His fourth quarter interception and fumble recovery on consecutive Minnesota possessions last Saturday provided Iowa with excellent scoring opportunities which the Hawkeyes failed to exploit.
Cole was the team's leading tackler in his first season as a starter last year. He garnered 72 solo tackles and 53 assists for a total of 125 tackles -- sixth best in school history. He also recovered three fumbles last year.
Cole also leads the team in tackles this season, with 36 solos and 22 assists for a total of 58 through Iowa's first seven games.
'Mel has shown great leadership,' Alvarez says. 'He's done an outstanding job for us that way. He's also shown great consistency. He's played consistently week in and week out for us this year.'
Cole says he'd gladly exchange a few of his tackles for an Iowa win last weekend, but says he doubts the Hawkeyes will stay down for long.
'It wasn't a letdown,' he said of the Minnesota loss. 'It was more of a disappointment because we know we could have played a better game than we did. We've got four more games to bounce back.
'We've got a lot of young people on the team. I think it's the part of all the starters to show some leadership.'
Cole says talk of Iowa's first appearance in the Rose Bowl in 23 years also will not affect the play of the Hawks.
'I'm taking them one at a time,' he said. 'We really haven't done too much of anything yet. Good things will come if we win.'