By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
If DeShawn Coleman can continue the meteoric rise to which he’s ascended during the last year-plus, the sky’s the limit for his future.
Coleman came out of anonymity to lead the Hornets to the 2011 District 10 Class AA championship and a PIAA playoffs berth, as well as the Mercer County-area in both rushing and scoring.
Now Coleman may be headed to Morgantown, W. Va.
Hickory headmaster Bill Brest announced while returning Saturday evening from the Mountaineers’ spring game that Coleman has verbally committed to WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen.
Brest related, “DeShawn was invited down there last year to a summer camp, and what he did on the field, he extremely impressed (WVU coaches).”
In a team sport setting where Hickory had contributions on both sides of the ball it would not be accurate to say Coleman carried the club. But his numbers are undeniable.
Last season the speedster rushed 208 times for 2,381 yards (11.4 yards/carry) and 31 touchdowns for the Hornets (11-2). Hickory hurdled Gen. McLane (35-13) for the D-10 title, but was toppled by Tyrone (40-28) in its PIAA playoff opener. Coleman collected 36 total TDs for 216 points.
“(Division I) coaches are impressed with how DeShawn can get north and south on perimeter plays immediately,” Brest related, noting Coleman was clocked at 4.4 in the 40-yard dash during his sophomore year at a Youngstown State University summer camp.
“They’re impressed with his vision and cutting ability,” Brest continued. “And he has that frame (a fraction over 6-foot, 172 pounds) that they can put more weight on him.”
Though used sparingly, Coleman can catch the ball, too (8 receptions, 137 yards, 17.1 yards/catch, 3 TDs in 2011).
“He’s currently working on that,” Brest related regarding receiving. “(WVU coaches) like DeShawn at runing back, but down there their running backs are hybrid receivers who can play in the slot or out of the backfield, DeShawn’ll fit into (WVU’s) spread offense in a variety of ways.”
Last season quarterback Geno Smith orchestrated the offense for the Mountaineers (10-3), who amassed 489 points (37.6./game), culminating in a 70-33 clobbering of Clemson in the Discover-Orange Bowl. During Saturday’s spring game, Smith, playing for both squads, turned in a 23-for-29, 281-yard, 2-touchdown passing performance as the Blue outscored the Gold, 43-34.
Brest said Coleman considered several schools, including YSU — where one of his teammates who provided paths for him last season, offensive lineman Matt Bell, is headed — and Pitt (he also visited Penn State last fall) and Purdue. But Brest related, “People are just starting to call now — Ohio State, Virginia, Oklahoma State, Maryland ...
“But DeShawn had a comfort level down there (Morgantown),” Brest continued. “He’s excited about his major (landscape architecture), he’s excited about the football program, he’s excited about the coaching staff and loves their system, and he’s excited about playing in the Big 12 (Conference), also.”
WVU will leave the Big East Conference (effective June 30) — at a hefty cost of a $20 million exit settlement (normally there is a 27-month waiting period) — to join the Big 12 as part of college football’s changing landscape. The Mounties host in-state rival Marshall University on Sept. 1 to commence the 2012 campaign.
Saturday evening, Brest said he, assistant coach Walt Nogay and Ross Gargano (former Kennedy Catholic High and Thiel College standout and son of Hickory assistant Neal Gargano) were getting into the car afterwards and we asked him, ‘How do you feel?’
“He said he was so relieved,” Brest related. “Now he can concentrate on his studies, (weight) lifting and getting in shape. ... He’s surrounded by people who care about him and love him and are steering him in the right direction.
“His work-ethic has always been there,” Brest responded when asked if Coleman could become complacent, or will be mature enough to withstand the temptation to coast now that he’s verballed to a collegiate program. “We’re proud of him for that. Now he can get the distractions out of the way, enjoy his senior year and get after it.”
In addition to Coleman and Bell, Hickory has been sending others to college programs (versatile Andrew Smith is bound for Division II Edinboro University), but Brest is not busting his buttons for himself.
“We’re excited for DeShawn,” Brest emphasized. “We’re very much more happy for the kids; it’s all about the kids. But, yes, we’re excited for our football program. We’ve had three, four, five scholarship kids the last couple years and we’re happy because we’re trying to build a program. We’re excited for the kids.”