Hyped-up back-up

Hyped-up back-up

Quarterback is a position that requires a cool head, a steady hand and a stoic demeanor ... which makes you wonder how one Tennessee Vol ever wound up at the position.

Redshirt freshman B. J. Coleman resembles a younger version of UT basketball coach Bruce Pearl – emotional, excitable and wildly energetic. Given his hyper personality, it's difficult to imagine him methodically directing the Vol offense but head coach Phillip Fulmer says Coleman will get "some opportunities" in a back-up capacity Saturday at Vanderbilt.

Naturally, news that he'll finally get to see meaningful action for the Vols has the Chattanooga native even more hyper than usual. Thus, he'll have to rein in his emotions a bit between now and Saturday.

"My coach in high school always used to say that when you have a pep rally you want the middle linebacker to be fired up and emotional and the quarterback has to stay even keel," Coleman said, grinning broadly. "I believe there's a lot of truth to that.

"Whether something gets too high or too low, you've got to stay even keel. If we get up early, (he needs to) continue to stay calm, cool and collected. That way you don't get complacent. I think complacency comes in when you get a lot of excitement. If you stay calm, cool and collected, good things will happen."

Coleman fell a tad short of his "calm, cool and collected" goal when asked about finally getting a chance to show what he can do, however.

"Oh, man!" he gushed. "It's a great feeling for me to have an opportunity to go out there and play in an SEC football game."

To date, Coleman's only varsity action of 2008 was a couple of handoffs in the final minute of Tennessee's 34-3 defeat of Mississippi State. He did, however, start last week's junior varsity game, completing 22 of 31 passes for 325 yards in a 37-21 defeat of Hargrave Military Academy.

Naturally, he found the experience exhilarating.

"There's no substitute for game-time experience," he said, the excitement in his voice rising. "Hargrave was an excellent football team. A lot of those kids are going to do great things in the future. It gave me an opportunity to see the field in a fast-tempo kind of game, gave me an opportunity to be live; they could hit. It gave me a great feel to get into the game of football."

Even a live wire such as Coleman had to feel his enthusiasm waning while watching from the sidelines as the 2008 Vols staggered to a 3-7 record. Through it all, though, he continued to work hard in practice. The obvious question: Why?

"If you put in that grind time – that extra time – really push yourself to play fast and use tempo to your advantage, it will happen for you on Saturday," he said.

Given this fall's mounting losses and the forced resignation of the head coach, several Vols are struggling to remain upbeat. Not B.J. Coleman.

"Absolutely not," he said, clearly incredulous. "I think it's very important that your character shows now. Those core kids are going to come out when you're at your lowest, and I think we've got a lot of guys that are really trying to step up and show that their character's great.

"At times like this, you've got to help those who are in doubt to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I think the team has responded great. I think guys are going to go out there this week fired-up, focused and prepared, and I think it's going to be a hard-fought battle against the Vanderbilt Commodores."

A born leader, Coleman was among several Vols who showed their character by gathering for an impromptu workout on Monday ... their day off.

"I think it kind of shows the purity that's still left on the team," he said. "Football is still football ... like when you grew up and you were playing it on the playground. It's important for guys to maintain their character because I think it shows a lot of discipline. I'm big on those three points – discipline, dynamics and tempo. I think the discipline thing is a necessity for our football team because it shows how much heart and effort you put into wanting to win in the SEC."

Now that he has earned some guaranteed playing time, Coleman's next objective is to earn the trust of his teammates.

"The most important thing this week is to practice good," he said. "You want to make sure you have confidence and you want the 10 guys around you to have confidence in you. My main goal is to make sure those guys feel like they can play for me. I want to gain respect, then the discipline and tempo and the dynamic will follow."

Acutely aware of his emotional nature, Coleman understands he must keep a cool head Saturday against the Commodores.

"The most important thing to do is play within yourself ... don't try and do too much," he said. "Just go out there and have fun."

It's difficult to imagine B.J. Coleman playing football and not having fun.

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