Coleman likes UT's speed

Tennessee's only scholarship freshman quarterback has a quick mind and a quick release. They just aren't quite quick enough ... yet.

Upon arriving on campus in June, B. J. Coleman immediately realized that the key difference between Chattanooga McCallie and Tennessee is that everything moves faster ... especially his receivers. The guys he threw to at McCallie ran 4.6 or 4.7 in the 40. The guys he's throwing to at UT run 4.3 or 4.4. That means he has to complete his five-step drop in a big hurry.

"Woooo!" he said, grinning broadly. "You've got to get back there!"

Coleman also has to unload in a big hurry. Otherwise, his pass will be thrown after the Vol receiver's route already is completed.

"It's amazing watching these guys run," he said. "We've got some very, very fast receivers. Those boys are very, very talented. The main thing is that you get the ball out of your hand and into their hands and let them make plays."

Coleman, a strapping 6-4, 205-pounder, came from nowhere to become one of America's hottest quarterback prospects last fall. He committed early to Tennessee, then went out and put together a spectacular senior year. He completed 166 of 257 passes (64.6 percent) for 2,927 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also averaged 4.7 yards per carry on 51 rushes.

When he won MVP honors by completing 6 of 7 passes for 100 yards in the East Meets West All-America game at Orlando, Coleman zoomed up recruiting lists. He credits his parents and his coach at McCallie, Ralph Potter, with his meteoric rise as a prospect.

"Coach Potter helped me tremendously," Coleman said. "He and my family really made things happen by helping me believe in myself and helping me accomplish my goals."

Coleman's MVP performance in Orlando got several schools interested who hadn't been previously. He had no intention of reneging on his commitment to UT, however. He has wanted to be a Vol for a long time.

"The Good Lord has blessed me so much to be part of a great family, and being up here is a dream," he said. "I'm very thankful to be able to play in front of the Vol Nation and the 107,000 University of Tennessee fans that come out here every weekend to watch one of America's greatest pastimes, and that's college football."

Coleman is stepping into a great situation. He can spend 2007 learning behind senior Erik Ainge and sophomore Jonathan Crompton. Ainge is about to begin his fourth year as the Vols' starting quarterback. Crompton also is a proven commodity, having started against Arkansas while Ainge was hurt last fall.

"Erik has been such a great influence on me – on the field and in the film room," Coleman said. "He's a great quarterback who knows his stuff. It's a great opportunity for me to learn as much as I can from him while he's here. He's had a great four years here and he's given a lot to 'em."

Like a sponge, Coleman tried to soak up as much as he could from the veteran quarterbacks while he was attending summer school in June and July. He believes that has him ahead of the game a bit.

"Erik Ainge and Jonathan Crompton have been able to help me a lot with the progressions on the routes and understanding what the play is designed to do," he said. "That makes you faster, makes you not hesitate as much."

Coleman quickly discovered that quarterback coach/offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe is downright anal retentive in terms of attention to detail. The Vol aide expects his quarterbacks to be the same way.

"I'm so very thankful to be here so I can watch Erik and Coach Cut work, see how meticulous they are in their duties," Coleman said. "As Coach Cut says, the quarterback's job is to make those 10 guys around you better."

Unless Ainge and Crompton are injured this fall, B.J. Coleman will be under no pressure to contribute in 2007. That relieves a lot of stress on him.

"Absolutely," he said. "Still, it's important that I work as hard as I can, learn as much as I can while Erik's here, so I'll be more knowledgeable for the years to come."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories