Will Coleman had plenty of options coming out of Tyler (Texas) Junior College in 2014.
The former three-star defensive end garnered 11 scholarship offers but ultimately chose to attend Mississippi State.
Coleman arrived in Starkville a year ago expecting to make an immediate impact on the Bulldogs’ defense. But just before the season began, he learned that the NCAA had ruled him academically ineligible and that he would only be allowed to practice with the team.
“It was real hard and I kind of questioned why I came here,” Coleman said. “I felt like I’d worked hard for no reason basically.”
Coleman was regulated to the sidelines on Saturdays as he watched his teammates enjoy one the best seasons in program history. Instead of staying down about his situation, the 6-foot-5 Texan turned it into a positive and made the most of his opportunity.
“I didn’t want to redshirt but looking back it was the best thing for me,” Coleman said. “I got a year in an SEC weight room, film room and with the coaches. I definitely needed that year.”
Coleman packed on 20-pounds of muscle up to 255 and worked to hone his craft at defensive end.
“I definitely feel a lot stronger,” Coleman said. “I’m able to play my position with strength and force rather than just play with athleticism and quickness. Being here a whole year with coach (David) Turner has helped my technique and the strength and conditioning coaches have put weight on me. That’s helped the aspects of my game.”
Coleman showcased his new skill set this spring working with both the first and second team. During the spring game, he notched five tackles including a sack.
“After this spring and seeing it all come together, every single day that I redshirted was worth it,” Coleman said.
In junior college, Coleman was selected second team All-Conference after making 66 stops, eight tackles for loss, four sacks along with forcing and recovering a fumble. After spending a year in the SEC, he found out just how much of a talent differential there is.
“The game is more complex as well as guys are faster and stronger,” Coleman said. “Instead of having one or two Division I guys on one side of the ball, now there’s 11 SEC guys.”
Coleman collected offers from Arizona State, Colorado State, Houston, Kentucky, Memphis, North Texas, South Florida, Southern Miss, Texas Tech and West Virginia. Although choosing MSU resulted in a redshirt academically, he is happy he came.
“This was the best decision I’ve made with my family,” Coleman said. “We prayed together about it and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”