It’s fair to say that without Lavon Coleman the Washington Huskies would not have gotten the chance to play Alabama in the 2016 College Football Playoff. Coleman’s performance with 181 yards on 11 carries, including a 55-yard TD, kept the Huskies afloat in their 35-28 OT victory at Arizona to keep the dream alive. Now Coleman is hoping to fulfill his dream of making the NFL.
Lavon came to Washington from Lompoc, California where the 24/7 Sports Composite listed him as the 26th best RB recruit in the country and a high 3-star. Coleman was the sole RB in that class and had reason to think he’d have a chance to quickly become the starter. After redshirting in 2013 he joined a backfield that included Dwayne Washington and Deontae Cooper and averaged 14 carries per game in 10 games while picking up 4.1 yards per carry. Decent numbers for a freshman backup.
Coleman struggled to find playing time in his sophomore year with new head coach Chris Petersen. True freshman Myles Gaskin quickly asserted himself as the starter, and with Dwayne Washington still on the roster Coleman managed only 33 carries all season (although picking up 5.3 yards per carry).
Washington left early for the NFL Draft, which opened up space for Coleman to become Gaskin’s backup and he took advantage with the aforementioned massive Arizona game. Coleman was devastating as the home run-hitting change of pace back behind the shifty and consistent Gaskin. In 8 of the Huskies’ 14 games, Lavon had a run of at least 20 yards despite getting only a little more than 8 carries per game. He finished the season with 852 yards and 7 touchdowns at a clip of 7.5 yards per carry to wind up as one of the best #2s in all of college football.
Expectations were sky high in his senior season as many fans clamored to see the carries between Gaskin and Coleman at closer to a 50/50 split rather than 2 to 1. But Coleman didn’t look like quite the same back in 2017. His longest carry was for 33 yards and he only eclipsed the 20 yard mark in 4 of 12 games. It didn’t help that he struggled with injuries as he missed the Colorado game and saw only 6 carries combined in the season finale Apple Cup and bowl game against Penn State after suffering an injury in the 1st quarter of the former. His rushing stats went down across the board with just 407 yards and 4 touchdowns on 4.6 yards per carry, although he did see career high receiving numbers with 13 receptions for 155 yards and 3 scores.
At 5’11 and 223 pounds, Coleman is a sturdy back who is better in a straight line than weaving in and out of tackles. Nearly all of his best runs came when he could get the edge and had a full head of steam entering the secondary.
Mockdraftable.com lists players’ combine performance broken down by percentile within the position as well as comparisons to the most similar performers. Coleman’s best performances were the bench press (78th percentile) and broad jump (64th percentile) while he struggled in the 40 yard dash at 4.65 (24th percentile).
Coleman’s closest profile match was to fellow 2018 RB Sony Michel who is viewed as a 1st-2nd round pick whereas Coleman may not be drafted. The biggest difference between the two is the 40 yard dash where Michel fared about 0.1 seconds better. There’s also the not so small matter of Michel having a much better claim to the best #2 in college football after putting up 16 touchdowns on almost 8 yards per carry to help his team to the national title game in his senior year.
Coleman’s NFL Draft profile notes that scouts are concerned with his decline in play between his junior and senior seasons. If Lavon gets back to the player he was in 2016 then he’ll be a steal with whichever organization ends up with him. If not then he’ll find it hard pressed to make a roster. The good news is that Coleman is a gifted special teams player and that extra versatility will make it easier for a team to justify keeping him on the roster even if he isn’t getting regular use as part of the running back rotation.
Walter Football has Coleman ranked as the 23rd best back in what looks to be an exceptional running back class. He’s been given a 6th round-to-undrafted grade. It’s going to be a long weekend for Coleman waiting for that phone call but he’ll quickly sign on as a undrafted free agent if he doesn’t hear his name.