I’m a big fan of Brandon Coleman. Not many 6-6 receivers run with his fluidity and he’s flashed a playmaking quality to break off big runs after the catch.
Having said that, his nine catch, 94 yard and two touchdown performance against Fresno State might be one of the least impressive nine catch, 94 yard and two touchdown performances I’ve seen in a while.
Coleman will be blighted by bad quarterback play at Rutgers. With the greatest respect, Gary Nova is incredibly limited as a passer. Yet there are also instances where Coleman lets down his quarterback. And it’s those instances that’ll hold back his draft stock, no matter how much upside he has.
A good example of Nova’s limitations come at 1:05 in the video above. Coleman pulls off a superb double move on the cornerback, creating separation down the far sideline and opening up a potential big play. Nova throws the ball out of bounds. It was an easy 30-40 yard gain wasted.
On a simple underneath route at 2:06, Nova throws a pass I could’ve completed at the knees of Coleman. You could argue that maybe he should still make this catch and complete an easy first down. But look at the pass. It’s simple. Nova turned a routine completion into a chore. He followed it up with a rotten fade attempt, again to Coleman.
Then at 2:38 it’s almost like the frustrated receiver decides to have some revenge. Nova, for once, throws pretty much on the money downfield on a play action. Coleman has separation. You think it’s going to be a huge gain — possibly a touchdown. And the ball goes straight through his hands. At no point does Coleman locate the ball in the air. It’s ugly. He’s waving his arms around, he knows it’s coming. And before he sees the football it’s bouncing off the turf. You have to make that catch. You just have to.
There’s perhaps an uglier play at 5:27. He’s wide open. It’s in his basket. And he drops it. In fact this play is worse than the jugglers arms earlier. A key first down wasted after good work from the quarterback to keep the play alive. Coleman has to make that catch if he wants to be a first round pick.
He makes up for it at 3:42 with his first touchdown — Coleman does well to get open here and Nova hits him for a simple score. His second touchdown at the end of the game shows good positioning and body control to shield the corner away from the football.
There are other positive highlights — his first reception of the night, the play at 1:27 coming back to the receiver and the difficult grab at 5:13.
But the game ends with a pretty tepid attempt to catch a winning two point conversion. It’s not a great throw from Nova, but it’s catchable. He’s under a lot of pressure, he could get drilled. Yet the game is on the line here. Make the difficult grab, be the hero and have everyone talking about you this week. Instead he fails and it’s a bad defeat for Rutgers at Fresno State in week one.
Coleman is still a tremendous talent with limitless upside but despite the stat line this isn’t a great start. We’ve seen with Stephen Williams this pre-season what a big bodied receiver can do. Make tough downfield grabs, use height to your advantage and snatch the ball away. You can throw it up there and feel confident your guy wins the 50-50. Coleman isn’t doing that and he is making basic errors. Time is on his side, but he needs to improve as the season progresses to max out his potential.