Much like Chris Sanders did before him (1999-2000), Coleman found success after leaving a major college program to "return home" for the rest of his career. The University of Tennessee's loss was Chattanooga's gain in securing the services of one of the finest small college quarterbacks about to embark on a professional career in recent years.
The Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco went the same route early in his college career, stepping down from the University of Pittsburgh to turn a stellar career at Delaware into a 2008 first-round draft selection. Despite being slowed by a shoulder injury that limited him to just seven games as a senior, Coleman is projected by many draft analysts as an under-the-radar prospect who is an outstanding field general with a great work ethic.
The 6-foot-3 Coleman has the athleticism and size that teams covet in a pocket passer. He has the functional mobility to consistently escape pressure. With his raw power, he has done an excellent job of standing tall in the pocket, along with the leg drive to carry defenders when he runs between tackles, evident by his seven short area touchdown runs for the Mocs.
What separates Coleman from the rest of the small college draft crop is his ability to read defenses, instantly locate soft areas and find his secondary targets. He is a highly intelligent player who has the maturity and knowledge of a veteran for his ability to grasp a playbook and easily translate complex terminology into a big play on the field.
Some professional scouts liken his command of the huddle and hard-driven style to that of former NFL great, Boomer Esiason. He is an instinctive player with the same type of arm strength the former Cincinnati Bengals signal-caller displayed during his career. He has the ability to make all the throws and possesses the ability to thread the needle with proper zip and velocity when working in the short-to-intermediate areas, along with that smooth, effortless release to fire the ball into the deep secondary.
Coleman's strong character and natural leadership skills are evident on the field and in the locker room. When he transferred to Chattanooga, it seemed like a natural fit, as he was continuing the "family business." His father, Bryon, played at Chattanooga from 1977 through 1980 and was a teammate of head coach Russ Huesman and assistant coach Russ Ehrenfeld. B.J.'s younger brother, Jarrod, is a tight end for the Moccasins.
Before embarking on his college career, Coleman was a two-sport standout at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tenn. He received a four-star prospect rating from Rivals.com and Scout.com, as Rivals regarded him as the 10th-best pro-style quarterback in the nation, while ESPN ranked him 90th overall among the nation's prep prospects.
The holder of most of the school's passing records, Coleman took over quarterback duties as a sophomore, throwing for 1,993 yards and 15 touchdowns. The All-Division II Class AAA selection was a member of 2005 Chattanooga Times Free Press Best of Preps squad, after he amassed 2,203 aerial yards while throwing for 19 touchdowns.
As a senior in 2006, Coleman led McCallie to the Division II-AAA state title game, as the Blue Tornado finished with a 10-2 record and ranked fourth in the state. He was named to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association All-State first-team and was the recipient of the American General Mr. Football Award Winner for Division II AAA, also capturing that accolade as a junior.
The offensive MVP of the 2006 Chattanooga Times Free Press Best of Preps Team, Coleman was named to the Tennessean's Dream Team. He completed 166-of-257 pass attempts (64.59%) for 2,927 yards and nineteen touchdowns, as he also carried 51 times for 241 yards and seven scores. He capped his prep career by leading the West All-Stars to a 35-25 victory in the East Meets West All-American football game in Orlando, Fla. He also lettered three times for the school's baseball team as an outfielder and pitcher.
Coleman enrolled at the University of Tennessee in 2007, but spent the season as a member of the scout team. Despite an impressive performance throughout both 2008 preseason camps, he was limited to brief appearances in three games for the Vols that season. He hit on 4-of-8 tosses for 21 yards and an interception, adding 17 yards on seven carries. Before 2009 spring drills, he decided to transfer and headed back home to Chattanooga.
Coleman was the highest rated high school prospect to ever letter for the Moccasins. He showed off his pedigree during the 2009 schedule, as he completed 227-of-401 passes (56.61%), good for 2,348 yards, the fifth-highest yardage by a Chattanooga quarterback. He threw for 17 touchdowns and ran for two others while averaging 210.82 yards per game in total offense.
Moving forward to his junior campaign, Coleman began to receive considerable attention from professional scouts, and rightfully so. Elected team captain, he received All-Southern Conference honors, as he ranked third in the league and 13th in the nation with an average of 270.82 yards per game in total offense, as his pass efficiency rating of 137.82 was 21st in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision ranks.
The 2011 season saw Coleman complete a career-best 60.9 percent of his passes (137-225) for 1,527 yards and nine touchdowns, as he was limited to just seven games. He started the first six contests, but vs. Georgia Southern, he suffered a severe right shoulder sprain on a late hit and sat out the next four contests. The staff feared he would miss the rest of the season, but he wanted to end his career on the playing field, returning to complete 26-of-39 throws for 232 yards and three scores vs. Wofford in the finale.
Coleman received an invitation to play in the 2012 East-West Shrine Game and was one of the most impressive performers throughout practices. From the moment he stepped into the weight room, scouts could see that he was physically impressive. Once he stepped in to the practice field, they were treated to a display of the passer's powerful throwing arm.
The consensus was Coleman opened eyes, as his passes were called "frozen ropes" and showed his ability to drive the ball downfield. He further impressed scouts and his new teammates with the way he took control on the field with his passion for the game and the comfort he displayed in commanding the huddle.
While most scouts are gone well before the game was played, a high amount of them — especially from teams looking for quarterback depth — stayed around to see how Coleman would fair. He did not disappoint, completing all six attempts for 135 yards.
Teams were hoping to see how the rising star would perform in front of all the league's decision makers. He was invited to participate at the 20212 NFL Scouting Combine. With most of the elite quarterbacks refusing to perform in passing drills, it was to be his opportunity to shine.
Prior to reporting to Indianapolis, the quarterback broke the pinkie on his throwing hand when slipping on wet grass during a workout, and he met with the coaches for interviews. He put on an impressive display during Monday's pro day.
Coleman closed his career as just the fourth player in school history to throw for more than 6,000 yards (6,871), setting the team career record with 52 touchdowns. He threw for at least 200 yards in 21-of-29 contests, tied for sixth on the Southern Conference record chart. Among active players at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision ranks, he placed sixth with 1,008 pass attempts, tenth with 579 pass completions, ninth in passing yardage and seventh in touchdown passes.
With his complete body of work to show professional talent evaluators, it is expected that Coleman will become the first Chattanooga quarterback to be selected in the NFL Draft in the modern era. The most recognized Moc to be drafted was receiver Terrell Owens, who was chosen by the San Francisco 49ers with the 89th overall pick in the third round of the 1996 draft.
For his college career, Coleman played in 32 games – three at Tennessee and 29, all starts, at Chattanooga…As a collegian, he completed 583-of-1,016 passes (57.38%) for 6,892 yards, 52 touchdowns and 32 interceptions, adding seven mores scores on 103 carries, in addition to catching two passes for 12 yards and amassing 6,829 yards in total offense, an average of 213.41 yards per game…At Chattanooga, Coleman gained 6,871 yards passing on 579-of-1,008 tosses (57.44%) with 52 scoring strikes, 6,791 yards in total offense, along with throwing 31 interceptions…Also handled "pooch" punting chores, with seven attempts for 174 yards (24.86 avg), including three kicks that were downed inside the 20-yard line…Coleman's 6,871 yards rank second in school history, topped by Chris Sanders (7,230; 1999-2000), as that total also placed eighth on the Southern Conference all-time record list…His 2,996 aerial yards in 2010 rank third on the Mocs' season-record list, placing eighth on the league chart…Coleman is just one of five Southern Conference quarterbacks to ever attempt 1,000 passes in a career…His 26 touchdown passes in 2010 rank second on the school list and tied for fifth on the league season-record chart…In the 2010 Elon game, he attempted 63 passes, the fifth-most in a contest by a league player, as his 66 plays for 389 total yards vs. Elon was good for seventh in the league coffers, while his 386 yards passing in that game was the eighth-best game total by a Moccasin…His 432 yards passing the previous game vs. Furman in 2010 is the fifth-highest total in school history, while his 428 yards in total offense vs. the Paladins rank sixth on the Chattanooga game-record list…His five touchdown passes vs. Elon in 2010 was one short of the school game-record of six scoring strikes by Kenyon Earl vs. Gardner-Webb in 1993, followed by Chris Sanders vs. Mississippi Valley State in 2000 and Justin Barnes vs. Kentucky State in 2001.
Named to the Football Championship Subdivision All-American Dream Team by The NFL Draft Report, as that scouting information service rates Coleman as the best quarterback prospect in the small-college ranks…The Walter Payton Award Watch List choice (given to the top player in the FCS ranks) started the team's first six games and final contest, missing all of the Western Carolina, Elon, Furman and Samford contests and most of the Georgia Southern clash after he suffered a severe right shoulder sprain, thanks to a late hit early in the GSU game…Finished with 1,527 yards on 137-of-225 passes (60.89%) that included nine touchdowns and nine interceptions…Added another score on 25 carries for losses of 34 yards, as he also had a 3-yard reception and punted twice for 57 yards… Generated 1,493 yards in total offense, an average of 213.29 yards per game…Threw for at least 200 yards in five of his appearances and had at least one touchdown pass in all seven contests…Was sacked 14 times for losses of 96 yards and had two fumbles, but both were recovered by Chattanooga.
2011 SEASON HIGHLIGHTS
Coleman opened the season with 19-of-33 passes for 174 yards and a 13-yard score vs. Nebraska…Gained 40 yards on seven carries and threw for 290 yards on 23-of-32 tries with a pair of touchdowns, including a 47-yarder to Joel Bradford vs. Jacksonville State…In a 23-14 defeat of Eastern Kentucky, Coleman connected on 26-of-40 throws for 277 yards and a 13-yard score…Followed with 270 yards on 22-of-42 throws with a 20-yard score vs. Appalachian State…Hit on 19-of-33 chances for 253 yards and a 60-yard touchdown to Ron Moore, as the QB also ran for a 2-yard score vs. The Citadel…Back from the injury list, Coleman closed out his career with 26-of-39 attempts for 232 yards and three touchdowns that included a long of 44 yards to Marlon Anthony.
The team captain was named All-Southern Conference second-team by the league's coaches, as he finished third in the conference in pass efficiency (137,82; 21st in the nation) and total offense (average of 270.82 yards per game placed 13th nationally)…Was named Academic All-Southern Conference and made the Athletic Director's Honor Roll both semesters…Hit on 215-of-382 passes (56.28%), as his 2,996 aerial yards rank third in school history and eighth on the league annual record list…His 26 touchdown passes are tied for fifth in the Southern Conference season annals, and second on the Chattanooga chart…Had thirteen interceptions and turned the ball over twice on four fumbles…Gained 2,979 yards in total offense and scored four times on the ground, as he was responsible for 30 touchdowns, tying for seventh on the Southern Conference season-record list… Sacked 15 times for losses totaling 85 yards…Threw for at least 200 yards eight times, as that included four 300-yard performances and one for over 400 yards.
2010 SEASON HIGHLIGHTS
Opened the season with three touchdown tosses, including a 53-yarder, as he hit on 23-of-37 attempts for 340 yards and rushed for two more scores vs. Appalachian State…His 375 aerial yards rank 11th on the school game list, hitting on 24-of-32 tries with four touch-downs that included a long of 80 yards in a 42-24 defeat of Eastern Kentucky…Ran for a score and threw for two more vs. Western Carolina and collected a career-high 432 yards (fifth on the school game-record list) on 33-of-58 throws that produced two touchdowns vs. Furman…His 63 pass attempts vs. Elon rank fifth on the league game-record list, as he completed 33 of those attempts for 386 yards (eighth on the Mocs game-record chart) and five touchdowns…Added four more touchdown tosses behind 12-of-20 attempts for 319 yards vs. Samford.
A member of Chattanooga's Dean's List for both semesters, Coleman returned home and had an equally impressive performance on the field in his first year at Chattanooga…The transfer started all eleven games, completing 227-of-401 throws (56.61%) for 2,348 yards, seventeen touchdowns and nine interceptions…Rushed 34 times for minus 29 yards and a pair of scores…Gained 2,319 yards in total offense, an average of 210.82 yards per game…Threw for at least 200 yards in eight contests and had at least one touchdown pass in nine games…Was sacked just eight times for losses of 62 yards and turned the ball over once on three fumbles…Gained 28 yards on two "pooch" punts.
Played in three games at the University of Tennessee (wore jersey #18), handing off late in the Alabama-Birmingham and Mississippi State clashes…His only statistics came in the Vanderbilt contest, hitting on 4-of-8 tosses for 21 yards and an interception while carrying seven times for 17 yards.
Coleman sat out the season as a red-shirt, but received Southeastern Conference Freshman Academic Honor Roll recognition.
2011 Season…Missed the final three quarters vs. Georgia Southern after a late hit saw the quarterback suffer a severely sprain right shoulder that would sideline him vs. Western Carolina, Elon, Furman and Samford.
2011 Postseason…Prior to reporting to Indianapolis for the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine, the quarterback injured the pinkie finger on his throwing hand and was wearing a cast when he met with the coaches for interviews. According to The Tennesseean, Coleman fractured his finger when he slipped and fell, pushing back his passing workouts for NFL teams until Chattanooga's Pro Day on Monday.
4.93 in the 40-yard dash…1.65 10-yard dash…2.75 20-yard dash…4.38 20-yard shuttle…7.07 three-cone drill…30-inch vertical jump…9'1" broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 23 times…31 _-inch arm length…10 3/8-inch hands…76 7/8-inch wingspan…25 Wonderlic score.
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Dave-Te Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. At NFL Scouting, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.