B.J. Coleman always dreamed of starting a game in Bryant-Denny Stadium one day. The original plan wasn't for him to be wearing a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga uniform, however.
The Mocs' quarterback, whose spent two years at Tennessee before transferring to UTC, will make his first start against a Southeastern Conference opponent Saturday when UTC (6-4) wraps up its season against Alabama.
"It's every kid's dream when they're young to play against the No. 1 team in the country," Coleman said, though the Crimson Tide are actually ranked No. 2 in the AP poll and Bowl Championship Series standings, "and it's going to be fun to go down and play in Tuscaloosa."
Coleman has gone 188 pass plays without being sacked, a streak that dates back to the fourth quarter of the Georgia Southern game on Oct. 17. When told of the streak, Alabama linebacker Eryk Anders responded, "Well, he's coming to Alabama now."
There was a time during his career at McCallie that Coleman thought he might wind up signing with the Crimson Tide (10-0). Former Alabama coach Mike Shula was interested in him (but never offered a scholarship) and Coleman said he had a great deal of interest in Alabama.
"Just the history of the program, the Bear Bryant Museum and all the history with Joe Namath, Barry Krauss and the goal-line stand and all that different stuff," he said. "I was very, very intrigued by it."
Once David Cutcliffe, the Vols offensive coordinator at the time, let Coleman know he wanted him in Knoxville, Alabama didn't stand a chance. Even though things didn't work out for Coleman at UT, he said he has no regrets.
"With (Cutcliffe's) track record, if I had it to do over again I'd do the same thing," he said.
Coleman's decision to come home to UTC dramatically changed the Mocs' prospects this season. Coleman has thrown for 2,312 yards, completed 58.5 percent of his passes and has 17 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in 376 attempts.
"He's been a big difference in this football season, in where we are," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "We had high expectations for him and he had high expectations for himself."
After sitting for most of the previous two seasons in Knoxville, Coleman, a redshirt sophomore, said he's enjoyed being on the field again.
"It's definitely been a very productive season for myself and for this team," he said. "I've learned so much. I learned a ton when I was at UT for those two years, but being able to put the playing part into it is huge."
Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield talks often about how lucky the Mocs are to have Coleman, a four-star recruit who spent a year learning from Cutcliffe. Since tailback Bryan Fitzgerald was lost for the season against Samford on Oct. 10, effectively taking the Mocs' running game with him, UTC has had to rely heavily on Coleman.
In last week's 31-28 come-from-behind win over The Citadel, Coleman completed 39 of 61 passes for 356 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception.
On Saturday, Coleman will face an Alabama defense that's among the best in the nation. Satterfield, for one, believes that his quarterback is eager to rise to the occasion.
"I think he's ready to prove that he belongs at any stage that we're going to play on," Satterfield said. "I don't think he'll prepare any different and I don't think he'll play any different. I just think, in his mind, he wants to show people that 'I belong on this size stage,' and it's lucky for us that we have somebody like that."