Jacob Emert: Coleman stands out
Last year, Shane Beamer’s job as the running backs coach was simple.
The game plan was always the same: give the ball to David Wilson. This year, however, he does not have the luxury of such simplicity.
In the Hokie's first four games, they spread out 142 rushes over 10 different players. Eliminating carries that went to quarterbacks and wide receivers, as well as those done by backups in blowouts, four players are shouldering the load.
Michael Holmes, J.C. Coleman, Martin Scales and Tony Gregory have all made their case to be the starter, but the question still remains — will the Hokies choose one back and make him the focal point of the ground game? Or will they continue their running back-by-committee strategy that has been used thus far?
Coleman’s physical attributes have never made him stick out. He stands at five-foot- seven and weighs right around 170 lbs. His stature is diminutive, even following in the footsteps the undersized David Wilson, but what he lacks in size he makes up in speed — lots and lots of speed. His fastest 40-yard-dash time to date has been a 4.45, four-tenths of a second faster than what Wilson ran at the NFL combine.
The Tech ground game does not need a bruiser to run over defenders in the open field — they already have one playing quarterback. What if they find themselves in a third-and-short situation and want to run the ball with someone other than Logan Thomas? They already have Martin Scales to do that.
The offensive style of the Hokies — a run-to-set-up-the-pass strategy — tries to get their backs in open space. We have seen already, most noticeably in the Bowling Green game, that Coleman can be very elusive. Gaining 45 yards on only four carries, he was a threat with the ball and an effective decoy without.
He could be a productive, every down back, and he has done his best to prove that on his limited carries this year. Although he has only been handed the ball 18 times out of the backfield, he has gained 99 yards, averaging 5.5 yards-per-carry. That number is good for highest on the team for running backs.
Coleman also looks like he could provide a productive outlet for Thomas in the passing game. He has caught only two balls this year, but on both he has shown glimpses of breaking them for big gains – the most recent a 10-yard touchdown reception.
Logan Thomas has carried the ball on 30 percent of all Tech running plays this year. Holmes is next on the list with 24 percent. Coleman’s biggest negative thus far this year is his inexperience; something that will only begin to disappear with more playing time.
Eighteen carries in four games is not enough of a sample size to see his true success, nor is it enough for him to truly get in the flow of the game.