Hampton's Coleman sets MEAC rushing mark

When the college football season started three months ago, it looked like Alonzo Coleman, Hampton's outstanding running back, was going to rack up a lot of yards. Coleman, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior, gave a good indication of that when he had 25 carries for 172 yards in a victory over Howard earlier this season.

Since then, Coleman has been nursing nagging back and hip injuries which have slowed his production. Nevertheless, the injuries didn't stop him from becoming the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's all-time leading rusher -- surpassing Howard's Harvey Reed.

Coleman needed just 90 yards to break the record. In last week's 13-3 victory over Winston-Salem State, he rushed 10 times for 91 yards to set the new mark. Coleman has 4,144 career yards, which now puts him at the top of the MEAC class. He is also the all-time leader in touchdowns (57) and points (342).

Hampton coach Joe Taylor has watched him develop over the last four years. Furthermore, he has been really impressed with Coleman's perseverance.

"I have to take my hat off to him," Taylor said. "He's been fighting through [the injuries]. He's been getting treatment and controlling the frustration. I'm just so happy that he was able to pass that milestone."

With 548 rushing yards this season, Coleman needs to have a monster performance against Bethune-Cookman on Thursday night at home and another one the following week versus Florida A&M on the road to become just the third player in Division I-AA history to have four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He would join Jerry Azumah (New Hampshire, '95-98), and Adrian Peterson (Georgia Southern, '98-01).

Although that seems like a pretty large task, Taylor does believe Coleman remains a solid NFL prospect despite the injuries.

"The more film you have the better off you are," Taylor said. "But I think he's done enough to let them know that he's a real talent. Usually if you get those knee injuries that can hurt you a little bit. I think a deep bruise and a hip pointer and the kind of film he has won't hurt him."

Coleman seems to be getting healthy at the right time. Hampton (8-1, 6-1 MEAC) is in a tight battle with Delaware State (6-2, 5-1) for the MEAC title.

"We really need him coming down the stretch," Taylor said. "Hopefully, he'll remain healthy the rest of the season."

HBCU notes
• Jackson State QB Jimmy Oliver was named the Southwestern Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week. Oliver had a game-high 112 rushing yards on 13 attempts and completed 34 of 44 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns to amass 520 yards of total offense in a losing effort. Arkansas-Pine Bluff nipped Jackson State, 43-40.

• Johnny Baldwin, Alabama A&M linebacker, was selected SWAC Defensive Player of the Week. Baldwin tallied 17 total tackles (11 solo) with two sacks and a forced fumble. He also was named Defensive MVP of the Magic City Classic.

• Alabama A&M QB Kelcy Luke was named Offensive MVP of the Magic City Classic after leading A&M to a 21-13 victory over arch rival Alabama State before 66,233 fans at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.

• Alabama A&M graduate student Kristian Smith has been named one of 17 national finalists for the Draddy Award, which honors the nation's top scholar-athlete. Smith is a senior offensive lineman on the Bulldogs and the first-ever Alabama A&M student-athlete to receive this honor. He is just one of three players from Division I-AA and the only member from a historically black college or university to be honored this season.

• Texas Southern celebrated more than a 33-28 victory over Grambling State. The win wipes the slate clean of two streaks that tarnished the Tigers' recent football record. TSU's last win over GSU was in 1999 (21-20) and the Tigers had not won a home game since moving back to campus in 2005. TSU put on a great show before 7,835 fans who packed Durley Field.

• Jimmy Russell, Bethune-Cookman quarterback, was named the MEAC Offensive Player of the Week. Russell had a terrific performance in the Wildcats' romp over North Carolina A&T. He went 7-of-12 for 149 yards and two TD passes of 12 and 55 yards.

• Delaware State LB Russell Reeves was named the MEAC Defensive Player of the Week. Reeves recorded a career-high 16 tackles (7 solo), including a crucial tackle of South Carolina State's Cleveland McCoy on fourth-and-1 to end a potential game-winning drive for the Bulldogs.

T.J. Mitchell, Hampton's freshman quarterback, completed 17 of 27 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown to lead the Pirates to a 13-3 win over Winston-Salem State. This was his first start. He also garnered MEAC Rookie of the Week honors.

Donald Hunt is a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune.