published Friday, April 24th, 2009

Coleman: No fair shake

Feeling shut out of starting spot, former McCallie star leaves UT

Frustration overshadowed what had been a solid spring on the field, leading B.J. Coleman to leave the University of Tennessee football team Thursday.

Coleman told the Times Free Press he did not believe he had a legitimate opportunity to win the starting quarterback job, adding it was a painful decision to give up his dream.

“It’s the best move for me,” the former McCallie School star said. “What changed my mind is, after this spring, I don’t see myself getting a fair shake. Based on conversations with coaches and things that happened this spring, I feel the staff has goals that do not include me.

“I didn’t just quit. I didn’t just walk out. But I’m going to be taking a huge risk of losing another year of eligibility if I stay. I just want to play ball. This is my home-state school, and I know I can lead the team better than the other two guys.”

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Patrick Smith Former McCallie standout and Tennessee quarterback B.J. Coleman looks across the field during a pre-game warm up before their game against Northern Illinois.

Coleman met briefly Wednesday morning with Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin and quarterbacks coach David Reaves to discuss his future and to ask for an assurance that his spring performance had earned him a chance for more repetitions with the first-team offense. According to Coleman, Kiffin rescheduled the meeting for noon Thursday to allow the coach another day to evaluate video from this spring’s 12 practice sessions and three game-situation scrimmages.

When Coleman arrived for the Thursday meeting with Kiffin, he was told the meeting would need to be rescheduled for Monday.

After meeting with athletic director Mike Hamilton and the UT compliance office, Coleman returned to Kiffin’s office later Thursday afternoon to inform the coach of his decision to leave. According to Coleman, Kiffin became agitated.

However, Thursday evening a university athletic department spokesperson said he was unaware of the finality of Coleman’s decision.

“That’s hard to believe,” said Ralph Potter, who coached Coleman at McCallie and now is the athletic director and football coach at Brentwood Academy. “I know for a fact that B.J. met with Mike Hamilton, the director of football operations and Coach Kiffin and told all of them he wanted his release to separate himself from the team so he could pursue other options.

“I heard that directly from B.J. before and after Thursday’s meeting.”

For the last two weeks of practice, Coleman took most of the snaps with the second team, while senior Jonathan Crompton took most of the first-team reps. In the three spring scrimmages that were treated as game situations and played in Neyland Stadium, Coleman was a combined 41-of-60 for 425 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

By comparison, Crompton was a combined 31-of-70 for 324 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Rising junior Nick Stephens, who missed much of the spring work with a broken right wrist, was 13-of-25 for 159 yards and two TDs.

“I believe the reason I wasn’t moved up is because it would hurt them in recruiting if they name a sophomore as their starter,” Coleman said. “Some of the high school guys they’re recruiting might not want to go where they think they’ll have to sit for a couple of years.

“I gave it everything I had. I couldn’t have had a better spring or made it more obvious to them that I was their guy. I proved it on the field and off. The scrimmages, to me, are how you grade if a kid can handle the atmosphere and the pressure. I’ve given them every reason to play me.”

As a redshirt freshman last season, Coleman did not receive playing time until he threw for 325 yards in a late-November junior varsity game. His most significant experience came later against Vanderbilt, when he threw just eight passes, completing four for 21 yards and an interception.

“This spring was my best shot to get the starting spot,” Coleman said. “Right now. After that, when they get their own guys in here that they’ve signed, I will start moving down the list. I would become what you call an insurance policy.

“It’s been frustrating to hear Coach Kiffin talk about how the quarterbacks have struggled so much this spring when I knew I didn’t. It seemed like, for Coach Kiffin, the day was based on how Jonathan does.”

Included in Coleman’s spring totals was last Saturday’s performance in the Orange and White game, in which he completed 13 of 22 passes for 161 yards with two TDs in his three series. His other drive began at the offense’s 2-yard line and culminated in a field goal after a third TD pass was nullified by a penalty.

“From the pregame meal through the Vol Walk Saturday, I treated it the same way I would a game next year,” Coleman said. “I wanted to show everybody what I’ve got. And finally the fans saw what I’ve been doing all spring.”

Coleman said he is unsure where he will transfer but said he and his family will begin contacting prospective programs soon.

An Academic All-SEC performer, Coleman has more than 80 credit hours and is on schedule to graduate in three years. He was chosen as the ambassador to represent UT at the NCAA’s student-athlete leadership conference in Orlando in May.

“If I’m the best leader and the most talented guy who gives you the best shot at winning, why am I not named the starter?” Coleman asked. “I’ve had so many players come up to me and tell me I’m their guy, I’m the one to lead this team, and I even told the coaches if they would just give me the keys I would get us where we need to be.

“But it never seemed like the coaches felt the same. That frustrated me for a while, but I’m at full peace with it now.”

about Stephen Hargis...

Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 23 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including nine in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation at the Associated ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
rblakeh said...

Drama queen.

April 24, 2009 at 1:45 a.m.
rblakeh said...

As an aside, who conducted this interview? Whoever it is, please take your lips off of BJ's backside.

April 24, 2009 at 2:07 a.m.
coop45042 said...

Hey rblakeh why don't u be a man and put your real name up there instead of hiding behind a computer screen? what r u 40 years old taking a shot at a 20 year old? Everything BJ said seems to be very true. you can just go back and look at the facts and the stats. Proud of you BJ glad you got out of that hell hole they call Orange Country.

April 24, 2009 at 2:55 a.m.
coop45042 said...

o and my name is Tyler Cooper rblakeh

April 24, 2009 at 2:56 a.m.
najones75 said...

who cares what someone's name is...grow up people...its just football.

April 24, 2009 at 7:14 a.m.
GoMocs57 said...

Lets all welcome BJ to UTC!

GO MOCS!

April 24, 2009 at 7:37 a.m.
rocky_topper said...

I don't think TWO coaching staffs could be wrong. It's highly unlikely! Jealousy will take a man down everytime!

Hargis, are you a sheep by chance? Just wondering!

Go VOLS

April 24, 2009 at 7:54 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Funny how VOL fans are so eager to take up for Kiffin. This is the same coach who former USC and Raider players repeatedly said Kiffin lies to his players. When Kiffin jumps to the NFL in 2 or 3 years are VOL fans going to call Kiffin a drama queen ??? Kiffin could care less about UTand the state of Tennessee. here is a kid BJ who never lies and loves Tennessee, yet VOL fans want to throw BJ under the bus for This Snake Oil Salesman who was 5-15 in the NFL......

April 24, 2009 at 11:08 a.m.
Salsa said...

Better that he quits now rather than quitting on the field.

April 24, 2009 at 12:12 p.m.
ladyvolz said...

Give it a rest guys and girls. Let the young man make his own decisions and quit second guessing him. Besides he didn't quit, he resigned from the team. Do you always blast people who resign one job for another?

April 24, 2009 at 12:29 p.m.
rescuetech395 said...

I know there are two sides to every story but i was at the orange and white game and BJ looked the best what time he played, im a true tennessee fan and crompton,stephens had their chance.It should be BJs turn but now we will never know how good he could have been at tenneessee.I dont blame him for leaving.

April 24, 2009 at 1:12 p.m.
jomo11 said...

I don't know Lane Kiffin, personally and neither does anyone who reads this paper know him personally. I do however know BJ's parents and believe and respect them and BJ. BJ will be a welcome member of the MOC family, and we will not turn our back on him during good and bad times. Keep your head up BJ, you are better than all those VOL fans who most of them never attended the school.

April 24, 2009 at 1:27 p.m.
bambamman said...

I am not sure why anybody would want to QB for a program with a losing and immature head coach. I think if you put his record with Auburn's new coach; they might have a combined record of 10-29. Auburn should own the cellar in the west and the Vols will occupy the dungeon in the east. The worst butt kicking in the history of the SEC will likely occur when Tebow manhandles the Tennessee defense and Urban makes the coaching staff look bush league... Good luck.

April 24, 2009 at 3:20 p.m.
moonpie said...

Perhaps BJ is indeed doing what is best for him.

I've seen the stats and it seems that BJ did play very well. Statistically, better than Crompton.

He played with and against the second squad, which one could argue is the second team, but equally argue that they may try harder.

Given that Kiffen likely does want to win as many games in his first year, and given that even a super freshman quarterback would not likely start his freshman year, I would think that Kiffen would want to go with the quarterback whom he really thinks gives them the best shot.

If Kiffen does what he says.... every year make every player earn their position, then new players should not be sscared of having to compete with BJ.

I thought BJ should be the starting quarterback or at least be given a shot. But I also thought Brandon Stewart should be the starting quarterback, over Peyton Manning. (Early on Stewart outperformed Manning, but the coaches simply saw more potential in Manning. They were right.)

The way this departure happened was not very pretty. Kiffen does not look the better for it.

To bolster his image and his apparent feelings that BJ was not up for the job, then he should release him unconditionally to any team who wants him -- including any SEC team.

This would be good for BJ and for Kiffen, in the long run.

Good luck to all.

April 24, 2009 at 3:29 p.m.

All I can say is this is a sad sad day and Mr. Hamilton better find out what the heck is going on before the whole team leaves. I was at the O & W game Saturday and Coleman showed me and my son that he is the man for the job by far and if Kiffin and whom ever else can not see that then I am not sure he was the right man for the job.

And Mr. Hargis I think you do a great job, keep up the good work!!

April 24, 2009 at 4:50 p.m.
smokey1954 said...

I remember attending games last year where fans with brown bags on their heads would boo the coaches and players due to the lack luster football season. Looks like a repeat for this year! Perhaps Kiffin and UT can purchase orange bags this year and go ahead and start passing them out right after the quarterback tosses that first interception. The stats speak for themselves even if Kiffin has chosen to ignore the obvious. Shame on you coach for demonstrating the lack of respect to your players that you demand for yourself. The devoted UT Fans deserve to have a better season and the players that have worked their butts off deserve the chance to prove to us fans what they can do on the field. Simply holding out for the next recruit does not satisfy my desire to have a winning season and give this young man the opportunity to win the fans back and bring back a little pride to the fan base. You will have an uphill battle. But then again, you made that choice, didn't you?

April 24, 2009 at 6:54 p.m.
rockytop38 said...

Haha, this kid is crazy. Three separate coaches felt he was backup material. He had one good PRACTICE in the O&W game against an EXTREMELY soft defense. If he was such the leader he felt he was he would have stuck it out and proved it again when fall camp came along, and if he didn't get it then he would wait til he could seize his next opportunity. He is a quitter and whining little baby. He didn't get his way so he is going to another school where he will probably be a backup unless he drops divisions.

April 25, 2009 at 2:03 a.m.
bnorris said...

If he is so much better than "the other guys," as he called them, he would have been named the starter. To pitch a fit becasue the coach rescheduled meetings shows immaturity on his part and not the "patience of Job" as Mr Wiedmer put it and going to the press with all this was a mistake. His actions will put off coaches, no matter how talented he is.

April 25, 2009 at 12:05 p.m.
bamauno said...

Myself being a CRIMSON TIDE FAN I can't wait until the third sat. in Oct. THREE IN A ROW! ROLL TIDE ROLL.

April 25, 2009 at 2:29 p.m.
Dr_Dread said...

When was he told that he wouldn't be the starter? How many times was it said that it was very doubtful that a starter would be named before fall? How many starters have been named at other competetive positions? How many times have we seen good recruiters bring in top qb prospects even though they have top prospects waiting in line? After watching the O & W game, I came away feeling like it would be gameweek before we knew who the starter would be. Their was no clear winner. The one thing I'm sure of is that this staff hasn't hesitated to let players know if they don't believe they have a future here. The fact that they never told him that leads me to believe that he may have eventually EARNED the starting job. The Vols will be alright. Not so sure about young B.J.

April 25, 2009 at 8:20 p.m.

I'm replying to this on Dec 19, 2010 and sure appears that BJ made the right decision. On on

December 19, 2010 at 4:18 p.m.
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