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Disabato: Oak Forest’s Coleman chooses Indiana

Oak Forest's TevColeman. | File photo

Oak Forest's Tevin Coleman. | File photo

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Updated: February 13, 2012 9:13AM



By the time Tevin Coleman’s college football career is over, it’s possible the 2011 SouthtownStar Player of the Year may have to shift his allegiance from offense to defense and develop into a cornerback.

He’s cool with that.

But all Coleman has desired through an arduous recruiting process was an opportunity to start his collegiate career as a running back and let the chips fall where they may.

“I wouldn’t mind playing defense,” Coleman told me. “But I want a chance to play tailback first.”

Of all the schools that pursued the chiseled 6-foot, 205-pound senior at Oak Forest — and there were more than 30 Division I programs doing so — Coleman finally decided on one Tuesday.

He’s going to Indiana University.

“They’re going to give me an opportunity to win a starting job at tailback right away,” Coleman said. “I connected with the players and the coaches when I visited. They’re ready to turn things around. They have a lot of young talent. I think it would be fun to be a part of bringing Indiana back.”

It will be a long climb, for sure. The Hoosiers finished 1-11 overall and 0-7 in the Big Ten in 2011. They rushed for 1,932 yards as a team. Their leading rusher, Stephen Houston, gained 802 of those yards and will be a junior in the fall. Another candidate, Maine South product Matt Perez, registered 195 yards.

I saw Perez during his senior season two years ago at Maine South. He’s no Tevin Coleman.

It’s no wonder the Indiana coaching staff reacted as if it hit the Powerball jackpot when Coleman informed them of his decision.

“They were so excited, screaming and acting like they were having a party or something,” Coleman said with a chuckle. “It feels good to be wanted like that.”

If I was part of Indiana’s staff, I’d have reacted similarly. He’s a rare breed, blessed with power, speed, skill and elusiveness.

He played tailback, receiver, cornerback and returned punts and kicks for Oak Forest. His classmates referred to him as Tevin “Hester,” which has a nice ring to it. But he’s more like Reggie Bush.

Coleman averaged 11.3 yards per carry, 21.5 yards per catch, returned two of four kickoffs for touchdowns and had a pick-six at cornerback.

He ranks among the best in the 21 years I’ve covered prep football.

“He’s the real deal,” Oak Forest coach Brian McDonough has said. “He can do it all on the football field.”

That’s why colleges from around the country were lined up at his door.

Coleman had narrowed his choices to Michigan State, Nebraska and Indiana.

Initially, MSU recruited him as a running back. But when the Spartans recently landed another top running back recruit, they couldn’t promise Coleman that he would line up in the backfield. Like Nebraska, MSU considered moving him to cornerback.

Some observers will consider Coleman crazy for passing up elite programs such as MSU and Nebraska for struggling Indiana.

I, for one, applaud the kid. College football is a year-round commitment. In his heart, Coleman wants to run with the football. Again, it may turn out that he’s more suited to play defense. But it would be a travesty for Coleman to deny himself the opportunity to follow his heart and live the rest of his life wondering if he could have played tailback in college.

I remember a similar scenario for another Southland product. Thornton grad Antwaan Randle El had only a few D-I offers to play quarterback in college, one being Indiana. We know how that played out. Randle El followed his heart and went on to have a record-setting career at IU — then switched positions and played nine years in the NFL.

For Coleman, the experience will be even more rewarding if he can return Indiana to prominence.

“MSU couldn’t tell me what position I would play,” Coleman said. “I love running back and want to see if I can do it at the next level.”

Committing to Indiana, he’s going to get the chance he desires.



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