10 Questions: #8 – Will J.C. Coleman be a big part of the passing game?

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How much will J.C. Coleman be used in the passing game?

Coming out of high school, J.C. Coleman was rated the #101 overall player in the country by Rivals, and the #3 overall All-Purpose running back.  He was a guy who caught a lot of passes out of the backfield at Oscar Smith High School, and he did a lot of damage in the open field.

J.C. Coleman

Coleman was a big play machine at Oscar Smith.  Just check out the number of long runs and long pass plays in his highlight video from his junior season.  He was rated the #5 recruit in the state by Chris Horne, and it’s probably safe to say that he was the top playmaker in the state of Virginia for the 2012 recruiting class.

Enrolling in college a semester early, Coleman went through spring practice in 2012 and played as a true freshman last season.  He led Tech running backs in carries (109), yards (492) and yards per game (37.8).  He also caught 21 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.  If that seems like a lot for a Tech running back — especially one who isn’t an every down player — it is.

Here’s a list of Tech’s leading receivers amongst running backs during the ACC era.

2012: J.C. Coleman , 21
2011: David Wilson, 22
2010: David Wilson, 15
2009: Ryan Williams, 16
2008: Darren Evans, 17
2007: Branden Ore, 20
2006: Branden Ore, 18
2005: Cedric Humes, 10
2004: Cedric Humes, 8

Only David Wilson in 2011 has caught more passes than J.C. Coleman did in 2012.  Unlike Coleman, Wilson was on the field for every single snap.  From a catch per play standpoint, Coleman was more productive than any back the Hokies have had in the ACC era.

Why is that?  There are several reasons:

1: Coleman is naturally adept at releasing and catching passes in the flats.
2: The Tech coaches knew Coleman was a good receiver, and took advantage.
3: Receivers weren’t getting open downfield, and Logan Thomas checked down a lot.

The result was 21 catches in 391 offensive plays.  It took David Wilson over 700 snaps to record 22 receptions in 2011.  That’s a huge difference.

We didn’t get to see much of J.C. Coleman during the spring of 2013.  He was banged up a bit, plus the coaching staff was splitting reps amongst several other running backs.  However, Coleman did catch three passes in the Spring Game, showing that he’s most likely going to continue to be involved in the passing game.

I expect that we’ll see Coleman match his catch total from last year, if not surpass it.  With a young and unproven group of wide receivers, as well as a group of tight ends that feature converted defensive ends, Logan Thomas will need a reliable, consistent target.  D.J. Coles will be very good if healthy, but who else?  Thomas could potentially be forced to rely on his checkdown back quite often while his receivers are getting their feet wet.

I’d also like to see a concerted effort to get J.C. Coleman the ball on screen plays.  He’s a dangerous player in the open field, and with the Tech offensive line a question mark, there’s no way to guarantee that he’ll get in the open field by handing it off to him.

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14 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. What we have, and what’s exciting is that we have a diverse field of play makers. We’ve got an experienced WR with great hands that looks more like a TE (DJ Coles), we’ve got a speedy deep threat (Knoles), we have two great speedster RBs (Coleman and Gregory) and we have a star in waiting that has a power game in Edmonds.

    There’s no way that a talented OC can’t plug them in and move the ball.

  2. I wish VT would never put LT under center, shot gut every play.
    Through Screen Plays on short yardage and one deep pass on each series.
    Sure that leaves us one running or not but our running game is very questionable based on last years performance. JC is the real deal, its the rest of the offense that needs to step it up included my favorite, LT.

  3. To say that Coleman was the most productive back based on 21… is misleading I think. What did he do with those 21? Sure, catch per play. But there didn’t seem to be an impact plays in those 21? The average per catch…

    1. The stats for the two years Chris compared are very similar. Yards per catch was 5.9 for Wilson versus 6.3 for Coleman. Wilson had three more receiving TD’s. Coleman was a freshman. Wilson was a Senior.

  4. The key to the passing game this year is pretty much our offensive line play. We pretty much have all new starters at every position on the line plus a new coach that has players that were recruited for a different type of blocking. I don’t think the offensive coach or WRs are as critical as the protection goign into the year, which frankly scares me.

    1. LOL, I see no reason to really worry about that considering that our recruits never displayed the ability to flourish under the old blocking scheme.

  5. It looks there like JC has excellent vision as well. Maybe he is the type of back that can do well in Grimey’s blocking scheme.

  6. This is why I believe you are actually going to see VT put up pretty big passing numbers this season, despite efforts to re-invigorate the running game. Coleman and Gregory are not built to be every-down backs, so if Edmunds struggles (especially early on), VT is going to be forced–by default–to throw it.

    I don’t necessarily expect us to run more deep routes than last year, but you will probably see many more instances of guys like Coleman and Gregory catching short stuff out of the backfield and maybe even see them line up in the slot once in awhile. I also think the TEs will catch more balls.

    So even if Logan’s passing yards aren’t up, I bet his number of attempts (and hopefully completions) will be. Average yards per throw (and completion) will be down too, unless he hits on more of the long balls.

    None of this is bad–no question VT will need to dink and dunk its way down the field this year, with the occasional long ball sprinkled in. But these short passes may help us keep the chains moving, moreso than trying to bust a freshman tailback up the gut time and time again.

    1. Exactly agree with you. I am perplex why we arent placing more stock and confidence in Coleman. THis “kid” is really an underated contributor and i think he proved it last year-alot of folks and writers need to look past his size. Boise State, Oregon, Stanford, Florida and a handful of other good programs Dink and Dunk their way up and down the field with great success- you can win a championship with this scheme.

      Your last paragraph is really interesting deja v to me. During a 10 year period beginning in 1992, Tech use to do nothing but slants, curls, toss sweeps, swing passes, and dink and dunks because we never could recruit big-time speed receivers to compliment the average or above average QB we had on the field. But look at how many games we won over the years and how successful we were. Tech was King at running theses schemes and somehow got away from this good part of their game. Seems like we traded it in for the idea that it was better to send receivers down the field long and prove we could throw it but what we lacked was continuing to recruit good natural receivers and good natural OL that could block down field. Maybe we’ve been asking for too much from Logan considering our past offensive situations? He has certainly done a whole lot more with a whole lot les than Taylor, Randall/Glennon, Vicks, and Druck. I’m really hoping we get back to some of the short passing game we use to run so well.

    2. Completely agree. This will not only give confidence to Logan, who will need less time to find an open receiver, but it will also put the defense on their heels and put our play-makers in a position to make plays in the open field. The defensive end rush would slow if they are looking for screens and the safeties will creep up looking for the short pass – ultimately leading to a few Demitri Knowles TDs down the sideline.

      More or Less a hybrid spread offense that is still grounded in what we like to do… move the chains!

  7. Yea, I was at that game, yelling at the refs like crazy. J.C. was wide open with lots of running room left. Even the Clemson faithful were in disbelief that the ref blew the whistle. There was also the Hopkins fumble that was ruled down. We sure seem to get some poor calls (I’m not bitter at all).

  8. Wasn’t JC used some as a slot receiver in the Spring game? I hope the new coaches can be more creative in getting our playmakers the ball in space. I also can’t help thinking he would have had one more catch and a lot more yards in 2012 if not for the “ankle sack” of LT in the Clemson game (not that I’m still bitter).

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