Ready to hit someone

The Tiger Nation held their breaths when Craig Steltz went down with a shoulder injury early in the second quarter of the national championship game, hoping it was only minor, and that he would be able to return to the game shortly. On the next Ohio State series, though, little known sophomore Harry Coleman stepped in and erased any concerns that Tiger fans had about Steltz returning to the game.

On third and ten from his own 31 yard line, Todd Boeckman dropped back to pass. In a Laron Landry-like fashion, Coleman shot through the line on a safety blitz and slammed Boeckman to the ground just after he released the ball, which fluttered down into Chevis Jackson’s hands, setting up a short field and an eventual touchdown by Jacob Hester and the Tigers offense.


It was a hit Coleman had been waiting to make all season.


“It felt good to actually unload on someone that wasn’t a teammate,” Coleman said. “I’ve made some hits on special teams, but I never was able to just unload on someone that wasn’t a teammate up until that point.”


Coleman would continue on to play well in place of Steltz for the rest of the game, finishing with two tackles, a fumble recovery, and that one big quarterback hurry.


It was the first time all season that the West St. Mary product had seen significant playing time during a game that was not a blowout. But that did not concern him one bit.


“I’ve been playing football since I was 6 years old, so nervousness kind of went out the window real quick,” he said. “I saw Steltz go down and thought it was just a stinger and he would be back in. Then at halftime I was sitting in the locker room going over my plays in case he wasn’t able to. The trainer came up to me and asked if I was ready because Steltz isn’t going back in. I was just glad that I was given the opportunity to play on that stage.”


Coleman will be getting plenty of more opportunities to play this year as he will be replacing Steltz at strong safety. He will be one of three new starters in the secondary as the Tigers must also find replacements for Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon.


Some are worried about those huge holes the Tigers must fill but Coleman does not share those same concerns.


“I don’t see it affecting the secondary at all,” he said. “We got just as many reps as those guys last year. All it will take is a couple games to get that experience and we’ll be right back where we left off last year.”


LSU will also be replacing three other starters from last year’s highly touted defense at other positions. Despite that, Coleman thinks this year’s defense may be even better.


“We’re going to miss all those guys, but we have guys to step up in their place,” he said. “I’m not saying they are as good as the guys they are replacing, but as a unit they will be just as good. As a group we are more athletic than last year’s defense. I think we can be better than last year’s defense without a doubt.”


Knowing that he would be one of the many players that would need to step up this season to make that happen, Coleman went right back to work after the championship game to prepare for the upcoming campaign.


“I tried not to focus on the championship game,” he said. “I just wanted to move forward and keep working hard. I tried to get better every day in the weight room. I worked with Coach Raymond on my footwork covering receivers and being in the box making tackles.”


With fall camp now ended and the season just around the corner, Coleman feels the Tigers are ready to get off the practice fields and start playing some games.


“We’ve been going against our scout team offense when they are in no huddle during practice to try to keep the tempo up,” he said. “I think we are ready to play a game right now. The biggest thing we have left to improve on is building depth on both sides of the ball.”


The Tigers have used fall camp for building that depth and with game week now finally here, Coleman will be making his first start with the Tigers just a few days from now.


For many people that would be pretty nerve racking. However, for Coleman, it’s just another day at the office.


“Like I said, I’ve been playing football since I was six years old,” he said. “So any kind of butterflies I had went out the window a long time ago. The only thing I’m getting anxious about is finally being able to hit somebody from another team instead of one of my teammates.”

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