“It gets tiring a little bit," Coleman said of being compared to Wilson, "because I want to be my own person instead of being just like David."
Despite his similarities to the big-play former Hokies, the undersized running back wasn’t immediately recruited by Tech, receiving offers from Florida, West Virginia and rival Virginia before even hearing from the Hokies.
“Tech wasn’t even looking at me at first and I was a little discouraged,” Coleman said.
“At one point, I was even hating Tech because they weren't recruiting me. Once they hopped on, I immediately fell in love with them because I knew their running back situation.”
The running back situation included Wilson and senior Josh Oglesby. With Wilson leaving school early to enter the NFL Draft and Oglesby graduating, the running back spot was wide open for Coleman to step up and make a name for himself.
Last Saturday, Coleman got his opportunity in the Hokies 41-20 come-from-behind victory over ACC opponent Duke. On 13 carries, Coleman rushed for 183 yards and was named ACC Rookie of the Week.
“You’ve got to be ready when your number is called,” said Coleman. “It was just a matter of being physically ready. That’s been something I’ve been trying to work on all year.”
The true freshman ripped off runs of 45 and 86 yards against the Blue Devils, which energized a stagnant crowd, which had grown tired of seeing an offense without any sort of running game throughout this season.
“I kidded with him all last week, when you see that hole open, whatever the little turbo button is on the Xbox or the PlayStation is, hit it,” said running backs coach Shane Beamer. “That’s the way you need to be.”
"He's a competitor, man," the coach added. "And he doesn't act like a true freshman. The atmospheres don't wow him. He's not blown away by being on the road or isn't blown away by being out there in front of 70,000 people. He has fun. He enjoys it."
While the two long runs caught the attention of most fans and produced the most excitement for the highlight reels, Beamer said he was more impressed with Coleman’s ability to run between the tackles and carry a few defenders a couple extra yards, as well as his blocking in pass protection.
"I don't care how big you are," the coach said, "If you're low enough to the ground and you've got a good base and you've got your hands inside his guys, you're going to have a chance to win."
At 5-foot-8, 192-pounds, Coleman hears quite often the questions of whether or not he has the size to be an every down back at the Division I level. Coleman, however, points to two professional backs who are getting the job done despite their lack of height.
"It's crazy that they say the smaller guys can't do it because the two smallest backs in the league the last couple years, pretty much led the league in rushing — Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew," Coleman said. "I just like the way (Rice) plays. He's physical, he's strong, he carries guys, he's fast. He just does everything well. I just feel like in the future I can kind of emulate him."
While fans may question his size for on the field purposes, his teammates and coach staff enjoy giving the true freshman a hard time off the field.
After the team’s win over Duke on Saturday, Coleman was presented with the offensive game ball. During the presentation, players yelled to the coaching staff to jokingly give Coleman an extra box to stand on.
Coleman said cornerback Antone Exum and deputy director of football operations Bruce Garnes are usually the worst about it. Garnes and Coleman have even developed a handshake that pokes fun at the running back’s lack of size.
"We've even got a little handshake that we do now that (Garnes) gets down on his knee and puts his hand all the way up," Coleman said. “I’m cool with it. It’s just something I've go to live with.”
Even after a big week, Coleman is still fighting for carries in a very crowded backfield. However, the breakout performance didn't hurt his case.