Time for Coleman to be one of nation's best

Tevin Coleman had a breakout season before injury ended his campaign early last year. Now, it's time for him to take the next step and become one of the truly elite running backs in the nation.

Tevin Coleman burst onto the scene quickly last season.

The then-sophomore running back opened the season with a 14-carry, 169-yard, 2-touchdown performance against Indiana State in his first game as the starter. Coleman beat out Stephen Houston for the starting job in preseason camp.

Coleman topped the 100-yard plateau four times in the first nine games, but his season was cut short when he injured his ankle against Illinois on Nov. 9. He would miss the final three games.

That was tough for Coleman, who had made it known in the preseason that his goal was to rush for 1,000 yards. Coleman piled up 958 yards over the first nine games, but he wouldn't make it to 1,000.

In the game in which he hurt his ankle, Coleman had already rushed for 215 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. He had 12 rushing touchdowns for the season.

Now, Coleman is back and healthy, eager to accomplish the goal he came so close to reaching last season.

“I think about it a lot. I know this year, I will be [a 1,0000-yard rusher]," Coleman said. "I was hurt that I couldn’t get it last year, but that’s just something I’m gonna do this year. It’s a goal for me to do it.”

Coleman was named to the Doak Walker Watch List this summer, an award given annually to the nation's top running back. Several Big Ten players had high praise for Coleman at last week's Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, calling him one of the conference's most dynamic players.

Preseason hype is nice and all, but now Coleman must go back out and prove that he's worthy of it on the field.

“I really expect his game to just slow down and see how blitzes develop, seeing the offensive line, how he could play off of their blocks," said offensive coordinator Kevin Johns. "I think it’s time for him now, being in his third year, to really separate himself and become an elite back in this country.”

Even as all the hype has come, Coleman has stayed humble and focused. He knows there's still a lot for him and his team to prove this season, and he's been focused on becoming an even better running back this season.

“There’s been no change in him," said running backs coach Deland McCollough. "But Tevin has always been a guy that won’t rest on his laurels. He’s going to continue to work hard and do what he needs to do.

“It’s my job to make sure his head stays on straight, and we do that. We keep him level headed and keep the competition high, and always feeding him nuggets to keep him on the right track. That’s not been a problem with him.”

McCollough said that even though Coleman put up big numbers last season, there were areas in which he wasn't as good as he needed to be. Coleman graded out on run reads at 90 percent last season, but the goal among the running backs was 94 percent.

"When you look back through those three or four percent of times when his run reads were wrong, there’s another 200 yards. Literally," McCollough said. "That really bothered him looking back on it like, ‘Man, it was there. I had plays to be made before I even got injured.’ It’s really fired him up.”

Coleman is now benching 405 pounds, one of 15 guys on Indiana's roster benching more than 400 pounds. He's one of the strongest running backs in the Big Ten and in the country, and he seems poised for a huge year.

"I think he's the most exciting player in college football, personally," said quarterback Nate Sudfeld. "But, he’s definitely still got things to work on, that’s what’s crazy, we’re still scratching the surface with him. He’s one of the most impressive guys I’ve been around, and as a teammate, he’s unbelievable. He’s selfless, works extremely hard, and his physical tools are second to none.”

Now that Houston is gone, Coleman figures to get even more carries this season, though Indiana will shuffle in some younger backs, too. Coleman's got all the tools, and he's healthy again. Can he put it all together this season?

“I fought my ass off to get him, and now everything is kind of paying off," McCollough said.

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