Indiana RB Coleman has B1G goals

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- When asked about his goals for the 2014 season, Indiana tailback Tevin Coleman did not aim low.

"I want to get over 1,000 yards," he told ESPN.com, "and I want to be the leading rusher in the Big Ten."

The latter part may sound, on first blush, a bit outlandish. After all, this is the same league where Melvin Gordon, Ameer Abdullah, Jeremy Langford and many other talented running backs go to work each day.

But dig a little closer into Coleman's breakthrough sophomore season, and all of a sudden his goals look much more attainable.

Coleman ran for 958 yards last season despite missing the final three games because of an ankle injury. His 7.3 yards-per-carry average was topped only by Wisconsin's Gordon among the league's top rushers.

"He should have been a 1,200- or 1,300-yard back easy," Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson said.

Coleman said it was difficult to come up just short of the 1,000-yard milestone, especially when his final game before the injury -- a 215-yard, two-touchdown performance against Illinois -- was so strong.

"That was really frustrating," he said. "I tried really hard to come back, but it [the ankle] just wasn't feeling right."

He's fully healthy this preseason and has added another five pounds while bulking up to 210. With his height -- 6-foot-1 -- and long-striding form, he's one of the league's most explosive players in the open field, but he's also not afraid to get physical.

"A lot of my runs last year came through the tackles," he said. "That was a good play for me. My favorite plays were the outside zones. I love them. I saw the hole, hit it with velocity and broke away from everybody."

Coleman could be doing more of that this season. Indiana is often labeled a pass-first offense under Wilson, but the Hoosiers actually finished fourth in the Big Ten in rushing in 2013 with more than 200 yards per game on the ground. Heading into this season, the receiving corps is green after the departures of Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes and pass-catching tight end Ted Bolser. With a veteran offensive line, Wilson might lean even more on the running game -- and Coleman.

"I think he ought to be pushing about 100 [yards] a week," Wilson said. "If we're missing anything from being a really, really legit offense, it’s having an even better run game. And if they want to load the box against us, I think we've got some guys who can deliver the mail. So we have balance.

"I could see us being an offense where Tevin gets a bunch of nickels, nickels, nickels, and then the quarterback stands strong and makes a big throw."

More opportunities for Coleman should lead to better numbers. He had only 20 carries in a game once last season, when he hit that number exactly in the win over Penn State. He averaged less than 15 rushing attempts per game. Yet, he still almost got to 1,000 yards in just nine games.

So maybe Coleman's goals aren't so outlandish after all. And if he can continue to improve, he'll become more than just a Big Ten breakout player.

"If I keep these numbers up and we win, people will notice me," he said.