With the 2012 NFL Draft quickly approaching, some of my time in covering the Seahawks for this site and for Field Gulls will inevitably be spent looking toward the future and one of the biggest questions on every fan's mind is what the Hawks will do at the quarterback position. There are several roads the team could take in terms of the quarterback position and the two most likely avenues are free agency and the Draft. If they decide to take the Draft route, they could move up in round one to select a player like Robert Griffin III, they could stand pat and select a player they like in their current #11/#12 spot, or they could opt to wait until the 2nd, 3rd, or later rounds to take a flier on a less heralded or less developed player.
Because Robert Griffin III and other likely first-round QBs have been extensively scouted and talked about here and pretty much everywhere on the web, I've decided to focus most of my efforts on less-known players and one guy that has piqued my interest as of late is Tennesee-Chattanooga QB B.J. Coleman.
First, a little background on the FBS star. Coleman was originally a four-star recruit out of Chattanooga's McCallie High School that signed with Tennessee out of high school to play under offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe. Unfortunately for Coleman, Cutcliffe left after one season to take the head-coaching job at Duke and the subsequent coaching turmoil ultimately led to Coleman's decision to transfer to small school Tennessee-Chattanooga. In his first season starting for the Mocs, he passed for 2348 yards and 17 TDs to 9 interceptions in 11 games. His junior year, he passed for 2996 yards, 26 touchdowns to 13 interceptions with a 137 passer rating, and in his senior season he battled shoulder injuries but finished the year with 1527 yards passing, 9 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in seven games.
Stats aside though, his tools and intangibles are what intrigue scouts. At 6'3, 235 pounds and in possession of a strong arm, he fits the profile as an NFL QB. From the scouting reports I've read, he has solid mechanics and good accuracy. He's got decent mobility for his size - though he's not a 'running' quarterback by any means, but his ability to get outside the pocket and throw on the run is a huge plus for the Seahawks, who have repeatedly said that's one of the main attributes to consider.
I'm not very familiar with the offense that Chattanooga runs but according to a scouting report from NFL Draft Monsters.com's Thomas Melton:
He lines up in shotgun but also lines up a lot from under center, frequently performing three step drops and releasing the ball upon finishing his drop on a quick slant or out route. He also frequently performs play action fakes and while he could stand to improve his fake overall, he does a good job pretending like the running back is getting the ball. Chattanooga uses play action fakes quite frequently in the games that I watched even when the running game really isn't effectively gaining yards, so sometimes that limits the effectiveness of the play-call.
His footwork is sound and he regularly steps into his throws which helps explain his impressive zip, and his throwing motion is clean and he has a quick release. He also does a good job of resetting his feet after moving in the pocket or completing a play action fake which is good to see. He also has a very impressive pump fake which he used a number of times to get defenders to jump into the air, giving him more time to find somewhere to go with the ball. Solid mechanics.
These attributes are definitely noteworthy because of the type of offense the Seahawks run. With the 'run-first' mentality, the Seahawks utilize play-action fakes quite frequently and like to strike down the field to keep the defense honest. Coleman's experience and aptitude in play-action and bootleg misdirection is a plus. Obviously, his above average arm-strength is intriguing as well, because any Seahawks QB will need the ability to move the ball down the field with strength and accuracy. This isn't the Holmgren era West Coast Offense where most of the throws are less than 15 yards.
From what I've read on Coleman, though, his intangibles and leadership qualities are part of what sets him apart. From an article written before the 2011 season by a local publication there, Nooga.com:
Coleman's coaches rave about his size, his arm strength, his football IQ. What they really marvel at, though, is Coleman's work ethic and leadership ability.
"I'm not sure all our guys realized this when B.J. got here," Huesman said. "He had come from a situation where it was 365 days a year, seven days a week. That may be an exaggeration, but you have to have that mentality if you're going to win championships. B.J. brought that mentality early on: ‘Here's what we're going to have to do in the summertime.' ‘Here's what we're going to have to do in the offseason.'"
"One of B.J.'s biggest contributions to this football team was the work ethic he brought," Satterfield said. "(During the summer), we have 65 to 70 kids out there three days a week, practicing on their own. He's running the show offensively and they're doing 11 on 11. We're not allowed to be out there. B.J. calls the plays. He scripts the practices.
"I would venture to say not a lot of FCS schools have what we have during the summer. And it's not like we have the budget for it. We've got kids that are staying five to a room, sleeping on couches and the floor. Before B.J. got here, we might have seen 15 kids out there. Now, after two years, our freshmen and sophomore have seen how it's done and don't think anything of it. That's the way it is. You're going to practice three days a week on your own, and there's going to be somebody out there that's a leader, making sure the expectations are met and a tempo is set."
Six months later, even after his disappointing and injury-riddled senior season, Coleman has been invited to the NFL Combine, and Nooga.com profiled his preparation. In my opinion, he's doing the right things and his focus is in the right area - getting himself ready for to play in a pro-style offense, which requires excellence in 3-, 5-, and 7-step drops from under center. His football I.Q. is easily apparent.
"I've already taken over 1,000 drops in a week," Coleman said. "It's what you've got to do. You've got to ingrain them into your head, and your muscles, so you can play. If you're not thinking about it, you're that much better."
Coleman, who last month received a long-hoped-for invitation to February's NFL Scouting Combine, knows what the coaches and scouts gathered there want to see. Arm strength is a given, but footwork is important, too.
"Footwork is absolutely a very significant part of the game," Coleman said. "Your feet take you to your throw. If you're polished with your feet, you become more accurate, more on time with the football, and you give your receiver more time to do something with it after the catch. Guys like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, when they put the football in their receivers' hands, they have a chance to do something with it."
From everything I've read about him, he's an intriguing prospect to keep you eye on and is taking part in this week's East-West Shrine Game. Early reports from there are favorable for the Chattanooga QB.
Again from Thomas Melton - "BJ Coleman is the best QB here period. Compact motion, plus arm strength. Mechanics look clean early. Passes cut right through the wind."
National Football Post's Wes Bunting: "QB BJ Coleman is an impressive athlete, can spin it, made some "wow" throws, raw from under center , struggles w accuracy."
Rotoworld.com's Josh Norris: "Fairly clear that BJ Coleman is on a higher level in terms arm talent than the other two. Not in pads, but other two have missed throws."
Optimum Scouting's Erik Galko: "BJ Coleman, three pump ups, four high fives so far. Expecting to see him be a leader for the team, big fan of him. [Coleman's] mechanics---Really nice, compact, comes out fairly quickly. ...2 deep balls by Coleman, both on the money. Talking with receivers pre-play like they've been teammates for years."
Here is the game-tape from Coleman's game vs Nebraska. Obviously, wasn't Coleman's best game as he went 19 of 33 for 176 yards, a TD and and interception against a very talented Nebraska defense, but worth checking out nonetheless for his mechanics, footwork, and arm-strength.