This sleeper is a keeper

University of Tennessee football recruiters weren't sleeping on the job last spring and summer, which is why their latest recruiting class may include one of the country's premier sleeper prospects.

Chattanooga McCallie quarterback B.J. Coleman was flying so far below the radar last spring that he was a virtual unknown. UT-Chattanooga and Marshall were the only schools to offer scholarships. Vol offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe was aware of Coleman, however, and recommended the 6-4, 180-pounder to head coach Phillip Fulmer.

Fulmer offered a scholarship last June 21, and Coleman called back 30 minutes later to accept the offer. The Vols had their sleeper … but he wouldn't be snoozing for long.

Coleman completed 166 of 257 passes for 2,927 yards and 19 touchdowns last fall. He also rushed for 241 yards and 4.7 yards-per-carry average in leading McCallie to the Div. II-AAA state championship game.

Still, Coleman was just getting started. He completed 6 of 7 passes for 100 yards and a TD in the East Meets West All-America game at Orlando, leading the West to a 35-25 victory. Scout.com attached four stars to his name and rated him the No. 16 quarterback prospect in America.

Suddenly, Coleman wasn't sleeping anymore. Nor were the schools who had given him little more than a token glance six months earlier. Their interest was piqued too late, however, as the Chattanooga passing whiz held firm to his UT commitment.

The fact Tennessee did not sign another quarterback shows how much faith the Vol staff has in Coleman, who holds McCallie's single-season and career records for passing yards and passing touchdowns.

Calling him a player that "not a lot of people knew about at the beginning," Fulmer added: "We were fortunate to be able to watch him play for a good period of time. He has a great arm, and he moved up fast in the rankings. We don't pay too much attention to those things but once he played in that all-star game B.J. Coleman really showed his wares and moved up quickly."

Most quarterbacks struggle with the transition from high school to college because of the increased complexity of the game. Suddenly, they are expected to learn dozens of new alignments, protections, routes and play calls. They also must learn to read and react to defensive schemes and coverages they never saw at the prep level. A young man must be bright and dedicated to assimilate and process this glut of information. From all accounts, B.J. Coleman is just such a young man.

"As good as his arm and his physical ability are, he's got an even better attitude and work ethic," Fulmer said. "We look forward to working with B.J. down the road."


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