Now, he is utilizing spring practice to develop his game and earn more time on the field.
"The biggest thing we are looking for is learning the playbook," he said after Wednesday's practice.
"With a new system going in, everybody is learning their positions. We are trying to learn our roles and learn how to work together as a unit. We are focusing on not giving up the big plays."
There is always a learning curve when installing a new system, and the players know it will take some time as well.
"It is going pretty good, but I still have a few things I need to work on to get to where I want to be," he said of his grasp of the system. "But, overall, this spring has helped me and things are really going good for me. Once I get a little more practice in I'll be fine."
The year of experience is something Cotton knows will pay big dividends when it comes to playing this fall.
"Man, if I knew things I know now when I was in High School, everything would be different," he said. "I felt like I have learned so much since being here, and the coaches have made me into a student of the game."
He noted a few guys that have made an impact on him since coming in this spring.
Cotton continues to use every practice as a chance to get better, and there is one area he feels he really needs to see improvement in. "My man coverage is an area that I am working hard on," he said. "I am a really physical guy, and I need to improve that and I know I'll be stepping my game up. I feel like the other parts of my game are pretty solid, I just need to improve man coverage."