In the weeks leading up the seventh annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on Jan. 20 at the Rose Bowl Stadium, we will profile 10 draft-eligible players who have committed to play in the prestigious all-star game. Today’s feature is on Central Michigan defensive back Amari Coleman.
Central Michigan might be known for its high-flying offense, but don’t sleep on the guys who make it work on the defensive end.
Amari Coleman was one such defender, and from his sophomore season on, his innate ability to seek out passes and break them up allowed the Chippewas to stay close in many games and eventually, rack up enough victories for them to play in a bowl game every year he started.
From the start, Coleman never let the big stage get to him. After getting most of his playing time as a freshman as the team’s top kick returner, he got his chance to play mainly cornerback the next season. The third game of his sophomore year saw him register his first interception — this after recording two passes defensed the week before.
Standing at 5 foot 11 and 188 pounds, Coleman is not afraid of lowering his shoulder and chipping in on a tackle. He had six tackles in four different games as a sophomore and managed a very impressive eight passes defensed in 2015 — though he never really had a chance to showcase his dangerous speed with the ball in his hands.
That was rectified immediately in his junior year, when he jumped on a pass in the first week of the season and took it 27 yards to the house against Presbyterian College. Three weeks later, he would have another pick-six, this time against Virginia as the college football sphere started to realize that throwing in his general vicinity was not a good idea. Yet for some reason, teams decided to still test his side of the football field, typically to no avail.
Against Ball State, his quick hands and shutdown coverage resulted in three passes broken up, and he had another two in a pivotal triple overtime win over Northern Illinois the following week. Perhaps the most impressive day he had his junior year was against Ohio, a game that CMU desperately needed to win to ensure they would finish at least with six wins on the year. Coleman responded with 8 tackles against the Bobcats; but more importantly, he batted away four passes that were headed his way, showing insane reflexes and instincts to make sure they couldn’t reach their intended targets. His 15 passes defensed on the year led the MAC, and landed him a place on the All-MAC First Team Defense.
Coleman didn’t put up as gaudy numbers in the first half of his final year, but that seemed to mostly be a product of offenses avoiding his side of the field on passing plays. Rhode Island didn’t heed that warning, however, and he snagged two interceptions as a result during a triple overtime victory.
The senior had his third pick of the season against Eastern Michigan and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown, displaying once again his impressive speed and body control. If that wasn’t enough, Coleman also showed a knack for making the right tackle at the right time, leading to four tackles for a loss, — an impressive stat for a cornerback.
Coleman’s quick hands, feet, and mind make him the ideal cover man in any scheme. And opposing MAC quarterbacks will surely breathe a little easier now that his time in the collegiate ranks is over.