BJ Coleman (QB, Chattanooga) tape review

BJ Coleman could be a late round option for Seattle

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.


  1. jim J

    Agreed, but we gave our 5th to Buffalo for Marshawn, so that leaves us with picking 4th or 6th. How long can we wait? I think Kiper had him rated as the #6 QB so he may not be as much under the radar as we hope.

  2. Rob

    I suppose there’s a chance Seattle could acquire a 5th rounder at some stage.

  3. Jarhead

    Honestly I would rather see us take Coleman in a later round than Cousins earlier. Coleman has upside, and has not maxed his potential. If Osweiler is not what the Seahawks are planning for, then Coleman would be a nice consolation. He appears very well spoken and intelligent in interviews. Has a commanding presence, I believe his ‘can-do’ attitude would mesh well with Carroll’s ideology. He needs work undoubtedly, but so does Jackson and Portis both, so we would have 3 QB’s that are unfinished works. I would rather we have a player who wants to play so much he backs away from a bad situation in a primetime program to play football and be a leader.

  4. Kip Earlywine

    I’d rather not draft BJ Coleman personally, for a lot of reasons:

    -I didn’t hold it against Josh Portis for transferring, because he was behind Tim Tebow and Cam Newton on the depth chart (and then he had non-football troubles at Maryland when he transferred again). I don’t hold it against Bo Levi Mitchell for transferring, because he took big steps forward after doing so. But the fact that Coleman couldn’t beat out instant NFL washout Jonathon Crompton and then didn’t do anything special for a tiny school… that’s worrisome. Coleman had some good numbers, but he didn’t DOMINATE the way that Mitchell, Keenum, or Harnish did playing lower competition. Quite frankly, if Coleman was the same size range as those three quarterbacks, I don’t think anyone would be talking about him at all.

    -He’s a one read quarterback that locks onto receivers. I’ve softened my stance on this, and I’m willing to forgive this habit if the quarterback shows very obvious talent to compensate. Bo Levi Mitchell locks on more than I’d like, but he makes a lot of “wow” throws and as T-Jack showed us last year, coaches can “coach up” a QB to progress through reads, even if it isn’t pretty. I’m not seeing that outstanding talent in other areas of his game to justify this risk though. Its very likely that mentally Coleman will be another Charlie Whitehurst type failed experiment.

    -He’s a good athlete, but his ability to sense/elude pressure is below average. He’s looks almost incapable of extending plays. I don’t want to rule out any QB option, but for this reason alone Seattle should pass- at least if they want to stay true to the point guard quarterback system. This is one of the few areas that truly can’t be taught. You either have this ability or you don’t.

    -The East-West game isn’t a perfect gauge since he’s working with WRs he’s unfamiliar with, so I’m not going to blame him for several of his miscue incompletions. That said, for a 234 pound quarterback his passes are surprisingly floaty and soft. In only 17 pass attempts, two of them SHOULD have been picked. Both passes were poor decisions compounded by lack of zip on the ball.

    -Its not hard to believe he was a 56% passer before last year. I’d rate his accuracy a notch below Jake Locker’s, at least from the two videos above. Locker is not an accurate QB, but his numbers were exaggerated because he suffered a ton of drops; Coleman is just missing his receivers.

    -I’m not seeing a ton of fiery leadership. Strikes me as a “going through the motions” QB (e.g. Whitehurst, Seneca Wallace).

    There are reasons why people think he could be worth drafting. Coleman “looks the part” physically. His dropback/footwork is pretty solid and he’s probably an NFL average athlete. His throwing motion is inconsistent but it isn’t much of a problem. He’s not close to being a good, natural QB, but I think for some GMs, they feel that the 1/1000 chance a guy becomes a different QB is better than the 0/1000 chance a different guy grows into a 6’3″, 234 pound body. Personally, I think that’s silly to get locked into size parameters to such a degree.

    For all the reasons above, I think Coleman is a classic case of late round QB fool’s gold. Looks great at first glance, but is worthless in the end. Every single year we see a ton of unnatural quarterbacks just like this who never pan out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against “raw” quarterbacks, its just that even some “raw” quarterbacks can still have some natural QB talent shine through, and I’m not seeing it in Coleman. For him to succeed in the NFL he’d need to become a radically different QB, and even among late round QB success stories that’s typically not the case. Innate natural ability matters a lot at the quarterback position- its such a difficult position to master even for the talented ones.

    I wouldn’t rule out Seattle drafting Coleman- they are very open minded and they did trade for Whitehurst after all- a comparable QB. I’d like to think that they learned a lesson from the Whitehurst acquisition though. If they drafted Coleman, I’d be disappointed. You never want to waste a pick the way this front office has drafted, plus we’d be missing out on a great deal of other promising late round QBs if we took him. It would also cause me to question if this FO can properly evaluate quarterbacks. I’m still hopeful, but drafting Coleman would be a blow.

  5. Jarhead

    I suppose my case is that I would much happier with Coleman in the 6th than Cousins in the 2nd or even the 3rd. As Cousins is the QB Seahawks fans seem to be locked on the most. A lot of draft analysts as well. I just don’t see Cousins as having any more significant an impact as Coleman as a 6th round project. I don’t personally don’t believe that Josh Portis is some kind of hidden project they are saving and keeping under wraps, as some on here have said. That idea is a bit silly. Regardless of the fact that throwing a QB out too soon can indeed hurt his development, that happens more when you pin the hopes of an entire season on him as well. If the Seahawks thought he could play at a higher level than who they already had, they would’ve played him against Arizona in a meaningless game. It would have been the perfect opportunity to see what he could’ve done. My deep interest in any of this drafts QB’s kind of flames out after Osweiler and MAYBE Chandler Harnish, anyhow. But if we’re going to draft a QB, I say don’t waste a 2nd or 3rd on a maxed out dud when there will still be PLENTY of defensive talent on the board

  6. Doug

    Hmmm, I seem to be agreeing with you lately Jarhead, I also like this guy. I kind of see his as a bit of a loose cannon, with no fear of throwing the ball into tight spots. I like the thought of this kinda guy.

  7. Turp

    I’d rather we spent a late pick on Harnish or Davis. I could see Harnish being as good as Kapernick, without the high draft pick cost (judging from their college careers and tape).

  8. Kip Earlywine

    Jarhead, I wouldn’t readily compare Dalton and Cousins. I think both are mid-round level talents, but that’s where the similarities end, IMO. Dalton was actually a great athlete with a pretty impressive arm, but he ran a VERY simple playbook and everything he did was 1 read / scripted. Because of those reasons I comp’d him to Charlie Whitehurst last year.

    By contrast, Cousins is below average athletically. In terms of dropback/mobility I’d put him just a touch better than Landry Jones. Cousins arm is average on its best day, and there are times when I worry that any loss of arm strength could be fatal- just like we saw with late career Matt Hasselbeck. At the same time, Cousins is a natural quarterback who makes smart decisions without delay. He’s also a very humble person (by contrast Dalton has been known to have meltdowns). Cousins also has a lot of charisma and its not hard to see him earning the “C” on his chest if he became a starter.

    Overall though, I really do see Cousins as a backup long term. I think his likely best case scenario is a Kyle Orton career path. That’s still a great value in the 4th round. Overall I like the guy and I think he makes sense despite being far from an ideal point guard QB, but I think any team taking Cousins in the 2nd round is making a miscalculation.

  9. Kip Earlywine

    Bah, wrong window open. Oh well, I guess this comment could work here as well, heh.

  10. GoMocs

    I saw BJ play his last three seasons in person. For people who say he doesn’t show leadership, that is folly. He is reknowned in Chattanooga for putting together off season practices and becoming an “acting” head coach. Prior to his arrival at Chattanooga the Mocs had won a total of FIVE games COMBINED in the PREVIOUS THREE seasons. The Mocs won 17 in his three seasons there. His senior numbers are skewed for two huge reasons, an injury that knocked him out of a bunch of games plus an O line that had three freshmen and two sophmores logging most of the playing time. It was scary how little time he had to throw after the getting the snap.

    That being said, I have no idea if he will make it in the NFL, but if he doesn’t it won’t because he doesnt’ have the necessary arm strength, he will be high at the combine in that. He has the intangibles, intelligence, morals, leadership ability, and was known as a film junkie watching hours upon hours of film upon his own.

    I have an active thread, which I will bookmark this into at—Shrine-Bowl–works—NFL-thread

    where his trip to the NFL is being chronicled. Feel free to stop by and ask any questions, registration is free and immediate.

  11. Jim

    I could see the Seahawks having much more interest in Darron Thomas of Oregon as a Rd-6,7/UDFA pick this year.

    Also, I think we need to keep in mind that the Seahawks will need both a starting QB and a capable backup (T-jack’s contract will be up next year) and the backup could be drafted this year (Cousins? Osweiler? Thomas?) and the starting QBOTF (Barkley, I’d hope) next year. I think it would be interesting to watch T-Jack and Cousins, Osweiler or Thomas compete this year. My money would be on Cousins, Osweiler or Thomas beating out T-Jack for a future backup position. Thats my take on it for right now anyway.

  12. Michael (CLT)

    From what little I have seen of this kid, I am intrigued. I do love the underdog. And a good intrigue.

  13. Jarhead

    Hey Kip, I totally get what you mean about comparing Dalton’s and Cousins’ abilities, backgrounds, and personalities. I meant to highlight that they are similar in that they have both essentially reached their ceilings by the time they are drafted. They both have no upside in my opinion. That’s the only avenue I meant to compare. And yeah if he is a 4th rounder, that would be more palatable certainly. But a lot of pundits seem to be shooing him in for the 2nd, which would be a tragedy

  14. Kip Earlywine

    I would agree with that. I think with both Cousins and Dalton, what you see is what you get, albeit in different ways.

  15. Don

    I see Coleman looking a lot like Blaine Gabbert with the same robot progressions and throws. No Thanks. For a later round QB, I would “pass” on Coleman and take Austin Davis or Darren Thomas instead.

  16. Phil

    Coleman looks impressive in the Shrine game, but — as others have said –in the Nebraska tape he really seems locked on to his primary receiver.

    Jarhead — I’ve seen several posts from you where you are really critical of Cousins, but I don’t recall reading why you feel that way. Have you got some inside info that you don’t want to share, or have I just missed it?

  17. Jarhead

    I have alluded to the reasons previously, but essentially they are as follows. After watching a decent amount of tape study, I see a player who manages a run first offense to some degree of efficiency. He can make a few reads and play fakes well, but rarely do you see him make something out of nothing. The offense he runs is designed to be just that: efficient. He has had little experience dealing with multiple reads and I have rarely seen him manufacture big plays with either instinct, his feet, or pre and post snap reads. His arm strength his average, he won’t be stretching the defense with laser accurate deep throws. He doesn’t put a ton of zip on the ball when throwing outside the numbers. And what I feel most importantly, he just doesn’t strike me as having the ‘Eye of the Tiger’. I know that’s cliche, but it’s something you either see in a player or you don’t. I never saw him take a game over when it was on the line- he never transcended the system. He always seemed to have to work within in it to succeed. That’s not terrible, but I think a QB should be playing higher than the system sometimes. He just never won the big game, he always seemed to come up short. Lack of clutch play is something we’ve all suffered as Seahawks fans. Cousins appears to everything ‘well’, but does nothing ‘great’. He is just average. I feel that’s also his ceiling. I believe I’m seeing a player who has reached his ceiling, and if we’re drafting him in the 2nd or 3rd round, that’s a dangerous game. At this point, I don’t think he’d be a wise choice for the Seahawks. We need a guy with a ton of upside, who has the potential to be the man, or use those 2nd and 3rd picks on impact relief and situational players who can see the field and improve the play of our O and D from whistle to whistle. I guess it’s just my opinion, but I see him as an average player who has already maxed out his potential.

  18. Phil

    Jarhead – thanks for the analysis, but I’m not sure how you can say that a guy has reached his ceiling. Maybe what you are saying is that he’s peaked out within the system he was playing in, but that’s not to say that given a new system, with better receivers for example, or a better offensive coordinator, that he won’t grow. The things that have impressed me the most with Cousins are his intelligence and his leadership skills — it’s hard to coach a player to be smarter or to be more assertive in the huddle and in the locker room.

    I’m not locked into Cousins. I just want to see improvement in our QB play and I’m not particular where it comes from, nor do I mind waiting a year or two for the QB of the future to emerge.

  19. Tom T.

    Rob, has your contact said anything about Osweiler? He seems like such an ideal pick if he falls to the 3rd round (which quite a few experts think he will). It would give us Hawks fans some closure to know if he wasn’t on the radar this spring.

  20. Rob

    He hasn’t unfortunately, Tom. I’d draft the guy in round two very easily and believe he has legit first round qualities. Yet I don’t know how the team are grading him, or any other for that matter.

  21. Phil

    Rob – Sports Illustrated had an interesting interview with Tebow last month. They asked him why he was able to generate the 4th Qtr. comebacks last year and he replied — pretty frankly — that maybe it was because it took him 4 Qtrs. to be comfortable seeing what the defenses were giving him. On the same page, there was a quote from Cam Newton where he admitted that in lots of games last year, he felt that he was in a fog — that the defenses he was seeing on game day didn’t look like what he had seen during the practices leading up to Sunday.

    How much does exposure to a wide variety of defensive schemes enter into considerations of who to draft at QB? Does it carry more weight if a guy plays against defenses in the Big 12 vs., say, the Pac 12, or the WAC? For a guy like Coleman, how sophisticated were the defenses he faced playing for a school like Chattanooga?

    When I look back to TJack’s play last year, there were so many instances where it looked to me that he was having problems quickly picking up what the coverage was and what he should do against it. If I was a GM deciding who to draft at QB, I’d rate someone’s ability to read defenses right up there with all the physical attributes a guy’s got to have.

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