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Best player in college football? Baylor's Corey Coleman makes case

WACO, Texas -- It’s Corey Coleman’s world, and everyone else is just living in awe of it.

His fellow Baylor receivers are amazed. His quarterback is thankful. And even the opposing head coaches aren’t reluctant to pay their respect.

“Number 1 is the best player in college football,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “You can put me on record for that. He’s the best football player in college football.”

And after 16 touchdowns in six games, he’s just getting started, and the college football world is just starting to take notice. What Coleman achieved in a 62-38 blowout of West Virginia -- 10 catches, 199 yards, three touchdowns, one school record -- was about par for the course during this insane hot streak.

Calling it a hot streak, though, might wrongly imply Coleman’s success is fleeting or unsustainable. Take a peek at his past 16 games: 105 receptions, 1,996 yards, 27 touchdowns. Coleman found the end zone in all but one of those games. He has more receiving scores this season than 110 FBS teams.

So, yes, he’s earning the right to be called one of the game’s best.

“He hasn’t given any reason not to be,” Baylor quarterback Seth Russell said. “He’s gone out every game and shown what he can do. He’s consistent. He’s explosive. You get the ball in his hands, and he can make some magic happen.”

But does Coleman think he’s the best player in college football?

“I’ll let you know at the end of the season,” he said.

At this rate, he’ll be making a trip to New York before the season’s over. The Bears have had Kendall Wright, Terrance Williams, Josh Gordon, Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley. They’ve never had a guy quite like Coleman. Living up to their legacy is a challenge he’s taken seriously ever since he showed up in Waco.

“I’m trying to put it on another level. That’s my job,” Coleman said. “I know how hard they worked to get it to ‘Wide Receiver U,’ and it’s my job to keep it alive and make it even better.”

Senior receiver Jay Lee can see little traces of all those famous predecessors in Coleman’s game.

“When the ball is in his hands, it’s just electric,” Lee said. “It’s shake, rattle and roll. He’s doing everything.”

The Mountaineers saw plenty of shake on Saturday. Even when you’ve got Coleman stopped, he’s still going. Just ask West Virginia safety Jarrod Harper, who was right on time to get Coleman after a catch early in the fourth quarter. Had him cornered, really, against the WVU sideline.

So Coleman simultaneously jumped in the air and stiff-armed Harper down, successfully outleaping a leg tackle. Once he landed, Coleman immediately jump-juked right to avoid corner Rick Rumph -- another whiff -- and dashed for a 30-yard gain.

He made a fool of another WVU defender on a fourth down earlier in the game. After catching a Russell pass on a slant route, Coleman slammed on the brakes and stutter-stepped backwards as Rasul Douglas dove at his feet. He dashed free for a 33-yard score.

“Just great instincts,” Coleman said.

And the one-on-one coverage never hurts, either. This was one of those pick-your-poison days for Baylor’s offense. West Virginia succeeded in slowing down running back Shock Linwood. So Russell exploited that by keeping the ball on options and rushing for 160 yards. If you focus on stopping those runs, your corners are going to end up battling Coleman and the receivers without much help.

When Coleman is making plays like his first one of the day, a 50-yard catch on a go route, those corners try to play it safer and give a little space.

“When you run past defenders all the time, they get a little soft on you and they back up,” Lee said. “We’ll take that high-percentage throw and make a play out of it.”

Coleman has been doing that all year long with impeccable footwork and explosiveness. Breaking Wright’s single-season school record for touchdown catches certainly meant more to Coleman than any of the hype.

“That’s like my big brother. It’s a blessing,” he said. “He set the standard high and my goal was to go get it, and I reached it.”

Now he intends to make sure nobody else reaches his record anytime soon.

“I’m trying to make it elite,” Coleman said. “I’m trying to make it unbreakable.”