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.
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.