When Virginia Tech deputy director of football operations Bruce Garnes wants to high-five diminutive Hokies tailback J.C. Coleman, Garnes gets down on one knee.
"I’m cool with it," the 5-foot-7 1/2 Coleman said this week. "It’s something I’ve got to live with."
Coleman doesn’t mind the short jokes from coaches and teammates. But don’t question his toughness or his durability. And please take note of his blocking ability.
"I don’t think I have any limitations at all," Coleman told reporters this week. "I don’t know if you guys have been paying attention, but I’ve been doing a very good job of blocking. That’s something an every-down back has to do."
That’s how Coleman, who tries to pattern his game after NFL backs Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew, sees himself.
After his breakout game Saturday against Duke, others are seeing him in that light now, too.
Coleman rushed for 183 yards on 13 carries, a record yardage total for a true freshman under coach Frank Beamer. He showed off his impressive speed, ripping off scoring runs of 45 and 86 yards.
"I remember looking at his high school tape and the only guy who I remember having as many long plays as him was Eddie Royal," Beamer said this week. "So that kind of made a statement to me right there."
Beamer might have been quickly impressed by Coleman’s play at Oscar Smith High School, which also produced current Virginia tailback Perry Jones, also undersized, but Coleman said he didn’t feel the love from the Hokies’ coaching staff at first.
He said he had at least three scholarship offers before Tech (4-3, 2-1 ACC) began recruiting him his junior year.
"I was just discouraged because they didn’t get in contact with me," said Coleman, who has bulked up from 175 to 192 pounds since enrolling in the spring.
"Other out-of-state schools were. I felt like I was one of the top kids in Virginia and I wasn’t even getting looked at by the in-state schools. But once they did get in contact, I immediately clicked on them."
After having to wait for Tech to recruit him, Coleman had to wait this year to get his shot as the featured back. Redshirt freshman Michael Holmes wore that hat through the first six games, with junior Tony Gregory getting a good amount of the workload.
But Saturday against Duke, Tech turned to Coleman, and he responded in a big way. Still, running backs coach Shane Beamer said the team will continue to "ride the hot hand" and wasn’t ready this week to elevate Coleman to the role of featured back.
The Hokies will need to run the ball well today against No. 14 Clemson (5-1, 2-1), as they look to keep quarterback Tajh Boyd and the Tigers’ explosive offensive weapons on the sideline as much as possible.
"The way I look at it, the best way to keep a dynamic offense from scoring points is keeping them off the field," Tech quarterback Logan Thomas said. "Hopefully, we can do that by keeping the ball, but also punching it in for seven because that just takes the time off the clock and gets you seven points and it limits their time being on the field, so it makes it that much better for our defense and that much better for our offense and it kind of makes them one-handed."
That’s the strategy coach Frank Beamer said he plans to employ against the Tigers, who are second in the ACC in scoring at 41.3 points per game.
"I think the less time they have the ball, the better," Beamer said. "I think we’re going to have to score some points ourselves. I think they’re an offense that, they’ve got too many weapons.
"They stretch you quite a bit. I think that’s the game we’ve got to play. We’ve got to move the ball football and get points ourselves. The less time they have it, the better."
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