UTC uses NFL to lure new football players

UTC uses NFL to lure new football players

January 31st, 2012 by John Frierson in Sports - College

UTC quarterback B.J. Coleman prepares to throw in first half action against The Citadel at Finley Stadium.

UTC quarterback B.J. Coleman prepares to throw in...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

A year ago, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's football coaches were able to brag to recruits about Mocs cornerback Buster Skrine.

An NFL prospect who was invited to the combine and drafted in the fifth round by the Cleveland Browns, Skrine was the player the coaches could point to and say, "See, you can get to the NFL from here."

Now, with B.J. Coleman headed to next month's combine rated the No. 7 quarterback in the draft by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., the Mocs have two shining examples to use in their recruiting pitch.

"Everybody we recruit that's a DB, we talk about Buster," UTC coach Russ Huesman said. "And obviously B.J.'s name helps us out a bunch. We talk about them quite a bit. We're awful proud of them."

UTC had three recruits making official visits the weekend of the Jan. 19 East-West Shrine game, which was broadcast on the NFL Network. Coleman, with the gold "C" displayed on his blue helmet, started the game for the East and went 10-of-15 for 168 yards and a touchdown.

After throwing his touchdown pass in the first quarter, Coleman did a sideline interview that lasted a couple of minutes. In it he mentioned Chattanooga or UTC or "representing the 'C'" several times.

"I do it because I'm from the city, I do it because my mom and dad went there, I went there and my brother [Jarrod, a tight end] goes there," Coleman said. "I don't feel obligated at all; I just truly enjoy it. It's my roots, where I came from, and I'll do it every chance I get."

Mocs offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Geep Wade was happy to hear it. Any publicity Skrine and Coleman get, he said, is valuable to the program.

"It's a huge selling point," Wade said. "We sell that quite a bit, but that's not all we sell. B.J. being on TV [during the Shrine game] while we had recruits on campus, that doesn't hurt, either."

Mocs commitment Will Johnson, a defensive back from Chattahoochee (Ga.) High School, said Skrine's success at UTC got hit attention. It wasn't a deciding factor in his picking the Mocs, he said, but it added to the program's attractiveness.

"That shows that if you're good enough," Johnson said, "you're going to get noticed and have a shot at making it to the next level."

Huesman said he asks all of UTC's recruits if they want to play in the NFL. They all say yes, of course, and he has evidence that it can happen.

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