Roughriders number two quarterback B.J. Coleman knows he still has a lot to learn.
His first game in the green and white on June 11 didn’t go exactly the way he’d hoped. He made just eight of 15 passes for 90 yards and threw two interceptions in a split game with former Roughrider backup Brett Smith.
He played even less in the second game, when the team gave Darian Durant his first reps since coming back from injury. Coleman’s results there weren’t much better, making eight of 13 for just 37 yards, but he knows he’ll keep growing.
“Both pre-season games were very, very beneficial for me,” Coleman said. “Obviously the first one didn’t go exactly the way you draw it up, but there was some positives to take from that.”
Positives his coaches must have seen too, since Coleman is the last backup standing. He was one of four quarterbacks that began camp with the Riders in Saskatoon. By the time the dust settled on the team’s cuts, only two were left: Coleman and Durant.
Roughriders head coach Chris Jones surprised many by cutting last year’s number two quarterback Brett Smith, who started in the place of Durant as he recovered from his Achilles injury. Quarterback Jacob Huesman, who attended the University of Tennessee Chattanooga with Coleman had been let go earlier in camp and latecomer Phillip Sims was moved to the six-game injured list.
Jones said Coleman showed him he has what it takes to be Durant’s back up.
“He’ll be the first to tell you he didn’t play his best football in the two games that we played,” Jones said after Sunday’s practice at Mosaic Stadium. “But he did play very good against our defence at times, so we feel like he’s got what he needs right now to be our developmental guy at number 2.”
Coleman’s continual development will be key, but it’s already going in the right direction. He stepped into his first pre-season game having never played a down of CFL football. The game has considerable differences to college, NFL and especially arena football, where Coleman’s background is. Not to mention, the field is much larger.
“When I first walked out here, I was amazed at how big it was. Going from 53 yards wide to 65 may not sound like a lot – 12 yards – but it is,” he said on day two of camp, while in the same breath committing to figure it out. “A lot of that comes with footwork, timing understanding the play, what you’re trying to get done making sure you stay one step ahead of the game.”
Fortunately, he has a good mentor who has spent years doing just that.
“[I] just got to keep learning and paying attention to Darian and what he does … I’m going to try to soak it all up,” he said.
Watching from the sidelines for Thursday’s first regular season game will be a continuation of his learning, he added.
“To be able to go in, be able to feel the pace, see how the coaches call games and really kind of attack a defence is going to be new for me as well, so like I said [I’ll] be a sponge.”
There are some new quarterbacks that could challenge Coleman’s position, however. Saturday the team added G.J. Kinne and Bryant Moniz. In fact, Moniz joins the team from Calgary with a few CFL games already under his belt. But the additions don’t seem to have to quashed Coleman’s spirit. And he said if something unthinkable happened in Thursday’s game and he needs to step in and play, he’s good to go.
“Obviously you want everybody to stay healthy, but you got to be ready when your number is called too.”
A different number, by the way, than the one fans saw him in during the pre-season. In the aftermath of the cuts, one more thing went Coleman’s way. He’s now able to wear the number he wore through childhood, number 16 – the one previously held by Brett Smith.