published Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Chattanooga's B.J. Coleman, Tim Benford trying to shine at East-West Shrine Game

The opportunity to increase their NFL draft stock began Monday for two Chattanooga natives.

Former McCallie School and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga quarterback B.J. Coleman and former Tennessee Tech wide receiver Tim Benford from Red Bank High are in St. Petersburg, Fla., this week for Saturday's East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.

"It's a business trip," Coleman said Saturday. "I'm going to meet a lot of different people, a lot of scouts, and it's going to be exciting. ... It's a big, big, big week."

Coleman arrived in Florida on Saturday after spending the previous three weeks training in Hattiesburg, Miss. On Sunday all of the players visited the Shriners Hospital for Children in Tampa, while Monday's schedule began with player measurements before the East and West teams practiced in the afternoon.

At UTC's junior pro day last spring, Coleman was measured at 6-foot-3, 222 pounds. He weighed in at 234 on Monday.

Benford, who was the Ohio Valley Conference's offensive player of the year, was measured at 5-11, 199 pounds. Georgia fullback/tight end Bruce Figgins was 6-3, 272, and Tennessee running back Tauren Poole was 5-9, 206.

Numerous reports from football writers who attended Monday's practice gave favorable reviews to Coleman, Benford and Poole. Coleman said Saturday that the practices this week matter more than the game.

"I think the week of practice is extremely crucial," he said. "When you get in the game, as a competitor you want to do well, but it's tough to learn to play with all these new guys in just three days."

Coleman received invitations to both the Shrine game and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl (formerly the Texas vs. The Nation game), but both games are being played Saturday. The Shrine game has been around for decades -- this is the 87th edition -- and, most importantly, NFL scouts will be in attendance all week.

That won't be the case with the NFLPA game in Los Angeles, according to numerous reports, because an NFL rule prohibits team scouts from being at practices or games that include underclassmen -- even those who have declared for the draft.

The quarterbacks participating in the Shrine game, which will be shown on NFL Network, are Coleman, John Brantley (Florida) and Austin Davis (Southern Miss) on the East squad and Chandler Harnisch (Northern Illinois), Tyler Hansen (Colorado) and Dan Persa (Northwestern) on the West.

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.

about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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