On January 11th I wrote an article for Field Gulls discussing quarterbacks available in this class, and touched on a little known prospect from Chattanooga: “If we’re talking darkhorses, B.J. Coleman is a former Tennessee transfer who has put up impressive numbers for the Mocs and has a lot of the physical tools Seattle likes. Big arm, mobile, makes difficult plays downfield. He’s very raw and more of an UDFA project, but he’s worth bringing to a camp.”
Ten days later he performed well enough at the East-West Shrine game to move beyond UDFA consideration and he could easily be drafted in April. He performed well for scouts during workouts in St. Petersburg and during the game completed 10/15 passing for 170 yards and a touchdown. He measured at 6-3 and 234lbs in Florida and has been invited to the scouting combine which starts this week. Coleman looks the part as a prototypical modern day quarterback - he’s big yet mobile, has an arm strong enough to make downfield throws and reports say he commanded the huddle and impressed onlookers at the Shrine game with his leadership.
So what do we know about the guy? He was a top-20 recruit coming out of high school but struggled for playing time at Tennessee with Jonathan Crompton acting as the starter. Coleman decided to transfer as a red-shirt sophomore when Crompton received all-first time reps in the Spring 2009 ‘Orange and White’ game. “It’s the best move for me. What changed my mind is, after this spring, I don’t see myself getting a fair shake. Based on conversations with coaches and things that happened this spring, I feel the staff has goals that do not include me. I didn’t just quit. I didn’t just walk out. But I’m going to be taking a huge risk of losing another year of eligibility if I stay. I just want to play ball.”
Coleman was criticised in some quarters for the decision, with the Tennessean’s David Cliner suggesting he’d put ego before the team - that Coleman had an inflated view of himself, his abilities and his importance. Lane Kiffin – who has coached a few quarterbacks in his career – clearly didn’t believe Coleman was good enough to start in the SEC at a time when the player believed he was ready. We also have to factor in that his father played football at UTC for four years alongside the current Head Coach and there are obvious links between the family and the school. Rather than waste time backing up Crompton, there’s something to be said for moving on and just playing some football. Let’s look at his time at Chattanooga and move on to the tape.
His senior year at Chattanooga wasn’t his best. He missed time with a shoulder injury – only featuring seven times – and managed a 9/9 touchdown/interception ratio passing for 1527 yards. Compared to his previous two years at UTC, this was a disappointment. In 2010 he went 26/13 for 2996 yards in 11 games and he had similar numbers in 2009. He did manage to improve his completion percentage to 60.9% as a senior, up from an average of 56% in his first two years – but this may have been impacted by less playing time. For a run down of his statistics from 2011, click here.
Mel Kiper says he could be a 5th or 6th round pick, and I think that’s a fair range for Coleman. Kiper: “He’s got the arm, and he’s got the size. You look at him at 6-3 and change and at 235 pounds, and you look at what he was able to do during his career at Chattanooga. I thought he ran a little hot and cold and had an accuracy issue here and there, but the long-range possibilities are evident.”
An obvious comparison can be made to John Skelton – a former 5th round pick out of Fordham who also boosted his stock during the Shrine Game in 2010. He had the size (6-5, 243bs) and the arm and has since started (and won) games for the Arizona Cardinals. Coleman hasn’t quite got the same downfield tools or accuracy, but he’s a little more mobile.
I’ve added two videos below. The first is every pass he attempted at the Shrine game, the second a performance against Nebraska.
Here’s what I like. At the 0:31 mark of the Shrine video, he shows a nice crisp drop back, good anticipation and delivery. He rejects the first read, there’s a good fake. That’s a quarterback responding to a week of coaching and showing he can learn quickly because there was no previous evidence of progression in college. I liked his three-step drop and throw in Florida, it was an improvement on the Chattanooga tape. At 1:38 he shows good awareness to put air on the ball and fit the pass into a really tight window. That’s a dangerous throw that usually you wouldn’t want to see your quarterback make, but he puts it in exactly the right area for the tight end to make a play. The throw at 3:52 is very difficult to execute and should’ve been caught, but it shows he can fit passes into tight window’s and isn’t scared to try and make plays in coverage.
In the Nebraska tape he makes a good throw to a soft spot at 0:49 but that’s a pass that should be defended. He stares down his target all the way and still has enough of a gap in between two defenders to make the play. He consistently stood tall against heavy pressure, stepping into passes and delivery with the necessary velocity to the target. His deep ball flutters sometimes and needs to be crisper. When he sees separation he can’t be conservative and try to place it too much (he is guilty of this sometimes). Coleman will consistently face difficult throwing positions at the next level, so when he gets a shot he needs to let fly with a little more punch. He’s shown on other throws his willingness to fit passes in there, so when offered an easier target I’d like to see him attack those plays a little more. On the touchdown vs Nebraska at 5:29 he takes advantage of a slip by a defensive back and executes better.
He’s good on timing passes especially on crossing patterns over the middle. These are high percentage plays, but even against a tough defense like Nebraska that outclasses his offense at the LOS and in the secondary, he didn’t panic. His accuracy is inconsistent, often just missing the target and he could do with becoming a little sharper across the board even on short range slants and touch passes into the second level. Yet the biggest problem Coleman has – unsurprisingly – is the inability to make great progressions. It’s a common issue for non-elite college quarterbacks, but it’s something Coleman particularly has to work on. Too many times he throws the play call even if it’s not on. He almost never rejects an option to move to a secondary read, he’ll linger on the primary receiver and try to throw him open rather than move on. He stares down targets, he gives away his intention too early. It’s the biggest step so many quarterbacks have to make in the NFL and Coleman is no different. It was good to see some degree of improvement in the Shrine game after some pro-level coaching.
One thing that stands out in the second video is just how good Jared Crick (DT, Nebraska) can be on his day. He’s almost the forgotten man of the 2012 draft due to a torn pectoral injury that ended his senior season prematurely. Crick should still be a second round pick this April. As for Coleman – I think if he performs well at the combine he has a shot to go in the 5th or 6th round. The Seahawks are likely to acquire a quarterback in the round 4-6 range and I wouldn’t be surprised if Coleman is on their radar.