"I try to do whatever the coaches ask me to do, whether it's play guard, center, tackle," Coleman said. "[Offensive line coach Jim Hueber] is trying me out at different positions. I just go in there and try to learn the position the best I can."
On UW's official depth chart, Coleman is listed as the No. 2 center, backing up potential All-Big Ten senior Donovan Raiola. For most of the Badgers' fall camp, Coleman did just that, playing center on the second-team offensive line. But he also saw reps at guard with the second team and the starters.
In reality, if the Badgers need to substitute for Raiola, starting right guard Jason Palermo or starting left guard Matt Lawrence, shuffling among the starters could be the first item of business. For instance, the true top reserve at center is Palermo, who would slide in to replace Raiola if that ever becomes necessary. And no matter who among the starters goes out, Coleman is likely the first substitute off the bench. True freshman left guard Andy Kemp is also high on the depth, but the coaches may choose to redshirt him, if possible.
"I look at myself as… being a utility man," Coleman said. "So I expect to just be ready all the time. There is a kind of a cliché thing in sports that you are only one play away from being a starter. That's just the way I'm looking at it."
Coleman played right guard in his first fall camp in 2003. He redshirted that season and spent time at center during practices for the Music City Bowl. During his first spring practices, in 2004, he played center early, was primarily a right guard or left guard, and saw some time at right tackle and jumbo tight end.
As a redshirt freshman, Coleman was primarily a right guard or tackle; he played in five games and lettered. He was the second team right guard for the first half of spring practices last March and April, but was then moved to left tackle before playing center in the spring game.
"I think it helps in the long run," Coleman said of playing so many positions. "It helps me be more versatile. In case they need to put a player (in), someone gets hurt, I can go in at different positions on the line. It's helpful that way."
Now, however, Coleman is developing a comfort level at center.
"Raiola's really helped me out a lot, with the calls we're supposed to make," Coleman said. "Coach Hueber's helped me out a lot. I'm just still working on it, trying to get all the calls right. I'm still learning a lot. It's a position that you need to be smart, you need to be on. You can't be on the edge of things. I'm just trying to learn the best I can."
Center could be Coleman's permanent position in 2006 and '07, after Raiola and Palermo have used up their eligibility. But this season he must prepare to play center and both guard spots, in case he is needed at any of those positions.
"It really helps me out as far as seeing playing time," Coleman said. "You are always one play away. I just need to be ready. Whatever position I play, I just need to be ready and fill in a spot if I need to."