There's an easy way to tell how B.J. Coleman feels physically after a football game. The strength of his handshake gives it away.
Normally the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga quarterback has a grip that comes just short of crushing the bones in one's hand, but that hasn't been the case the past two weeks.
After the 14th-ranked Mocs' wins against Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky, his handshake wouldn't have crushed an egg. Coleman took a beating in each of those games.
"I was pretty sore Sunday [following the 23-14 win at EKU], but it was all worth it after a win," Coleman said Tuesday after the Mocs' first practice in preparation for Saturday's game at No. 3 Appalachian State (2-1).
"It's just a little pop here and there, a little nick here and there. I feel good. ... I'm ready to rock."
Coleman has thrown the ball 73 times the past two games, and the 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior has been knocked to the ground after about half of those passes. He's also been sacked five times and taken numerous hits when running the ball.
The Mocs (2-1) can't keep allowing that to happen, coach Russ Huesman said. Not if they want to have Coleman around for the entire season.
"We've got to fix it; we have to fix it," Huesman said. "We can't take beatings, and whatever we've got to do to protect him, we've got to do."
Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said there's no quick fix to the problem. UTC has a young offensive line that sometimes struggles with protection, and when Coleman runs with the ball he needs to do a better job of avoiding hits, Satterfield said.
"We've got to move him around more and we have to protect," he said. "There's not a magic answer; there's not a magic protection."
Coleman said he knows he should slide more, "but sometimes you've got to get the first down."
Offensive line coach Geep Wade said UTC may alter some of its protections to give Coleman more time in the pocket. He said some of the protections the line has been using might be a little sophisticated for his young group and the Mocs "maybe need to go back to more old school."
Coleman has a big frame, a big arm and a high football IQ. What might be underrated, or at least under-appreciated, is his toughness, which has been put to the test this season.
"He's as sore as anybody after the game," wide receiver Sloan Allison said. "He gets up every time and there's something to be said about his toughness. It is very underrated."
Despite the hits and protection issues, Coleman has completed 64.2 percent of his passes this season for 747 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions. In three games, Appalachian State has seven sacks and seven quarterback hurries.