Baylor receiver Corey Coleman began appearing on recruiting checklists when he ran a 4.29 in the 40-yard dash at a football camp while attending high school.
He did it twice.
Coleman, a sophomore from Richardson Pearce, has not slowed down since joining the Bears’ program. But when he pulled his hamstring in an August scrimmage, he began wondering if this would be the breakout season he envisioned.
Coleman missed the Bears’ first three games. He watched others in a deep receiver rotation, including youngsters KD Cannon and Lynx Hawthorne, step up with triple-digit efforts in receiving yards.
“It was hard, really hard, because I had so many goals before the season,” said Coleman, who dreamed of becoming an All-American and leading the seventh-ranked Bears (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) in receptions and receiving yards. “I was playing really well before I got hurt, and my mom, I talked to her every way. She just prayed for me and walked me through it. She told me there was a lot of season left and you can still reach all of your goals. Ever since then, I’m just playing with a chip on my shoulder that I have to be the best.”
Postseason accolades will be determined by voters. But Coleman, in just six games, has emerged as the Bears’ leader in catches (44), receiving yards (796) and touchdowns (eight) heading into Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State at McLane Stadium. He leads the Big 12 in TD receptions and receiving yards per game (132.7 average).
That’s quite a resurgence for a player who did not record his first reception until Sept. 27 when the Bears defeated Iowa State 49-28. Coleman grabbed 12 passes against the Cyclones in his season debut, which stood as a career best until he caught 15 for 224 yards and a touchdown in a 48-14 rout of then-No. 15 Oklahoma on Nov. 8.
Coleman (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) also mixed in a 5-yard scoring run when he shifted to running back, his original position in high school, for one snap while Baylor was using its up-tempo offense and did not want to substitute between plays.
Before his scoring run, he said fellow receiver Jay Lee had to remind him to line up at running back. Once he had the ball, Coleman’s backfield instincts returned as he burrowed between the tackles.
“He’s a dynamic player,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “He brings a lot to the table because he’s a fast guy that’s tough. Those are pretty few and far between.”
Briles said Coleman’s carries from the backfield also project to be few and far between because he prefers having one of the team’s fastest players operating in space. That also is the desire of quarterback Bryce Petty, who has seen Coleman emerge as his favorite target (7.3 catches per game) in a receiver corps that features seven players with 12 or more catches. All seven have scored at least one TD this season.
Because of Baylor’s balance in distributing the football (the top four receivers range between 28 and 44 catches this season), it is rare for one player to post a double-digit receptions total in any game. Coleman has done it twice in six games, prompting Petty to call him “a playmaker, through and through.”
“He’s outstanding,” Petty said. “Very dynamic with what he can do. He’s small, powerful and explosive. I’m glad to have him on our side.”
Coleman received his first scholarship offer from Saturday’s opponent, Oklahoma State (5-5, 3-4). But he was drawn to Baylor because of the school’s “WRU” reputation. Former Baylor receivers on active NFL rosters include Terrance Williams (Dallas Cowboys), Kendall Wright (Tennessee Titans) and Josh Gordon (Cleveland Browns).
Williams, a Dallas native and second-year member of the Cowboys’ roster, predicted Coleman will be joining that group at some point. Asked if Coleman could play at the next level, Williams said: “He can. He’s going to get better with time. He’s making the most out of the chances he’s getting and he’s showing up real big. He’s somebody that could really explode and show up whenever the coaches call him.”
Williams said he remains in contact with Coleman, his Baylor teammate in 2012, and marvels at his skill set. And his speed.
“He’s somebody that, if you let him get off the line with no problems or backpedal to him, he’s basically just going to run by you,” Williams said. “He’s good in short spaces. It’s good to see him doing what he’s doing.”
In Coleman’s mind, he’s back on track to hit his preseason goals despite a three-week delay in starting the 2014 season. He said it would be “a blessing sent from upstairs” to finish as the top pass-catcher at “WRU.”
“It would mean a lot,” said Coleman, who finished fourth among Baylor receivers last season with 35 catches. “It’s really an honor to be the top guy, or one of the top guys, at Baylor.”
By the end of the season, he’s hoping someone from the All-America committee might even notice that he got there the hard way.
Coming on strong
A look at Baylor receiver Corey Coleman’s game-by-game stats this season:
|SMU||Did not play|
|Northwestern (La.) State||Did not play|
|Buffalo||Did not play|
|Iowa State||12 catches, 154 yards, TD|
|Texas||1 catch, 30 yards, TD|
|TCU||8 catches, 144 yards, 2 TDs|
|West Virginia||5 catches, 77 yards, TD|
|Kansas||3 catches, 167 yards, 2 TDs|
|Oklahoma||15 catches, 224 yards, TD|