Every good defense has its anchor, an interior defensive lineman who can hold down the fort. Tennessee football was always at its best with such a player. Class of 2025 prospect Antonio Coleman sees himself as that person.
Coleman, who has recently gained a lot of attention early in his recruitment, was extended a scholarship offer by the Vols on Monday.
“Tennessee, I feel like they have a great defensive lineman program,” Coleman told Off The Hook about his initial thoughts. “I feel like they would be a good atmosphere.”
The Vols’ 11-2 season wasn’t lost on Coleman. Like many people nationwide, Tennessee football caught his eye with its newfound success.
“I feel like they did good,” Coleman said. “I’d love to be a part of their program, one day, but that’s if I decide to. I still have to explore my options.”
Head coach Josh Heupel, as well as Tennessee football assistants Kelsey Pope and Rodney Garner, have been involved in Coleman’s recruitment. Due to NCAA rules, he hasn’t had the chance to talk to them yet.
Coleman expects to make a trip to Knoxville during the spring or summer. He also expects to visit South Alabama.
Coleman plans on camping with several schools over the offseason, hoping to showcase his skills.
“I know I’m going to be at a lot of camps this year,” Coleman said. “I’m going to go to camps and show off my talents. Hopefully, the hard work pays off.”
Still early in his journey, Coleman has been getting a lot of college attention. The Saraland, Ala., native has been getting attention from in-state Alabama as well as others nearby.
“It’s big, he said. “I would’ve never thought I would get this far with football.”
Coleman helped lead Saraland High School to a state title in 2022. As a sophomore, he finished the championship season with 69 total tackles including 20 for loss, 4.5 sacks, a touchdown and a fumble recovery.
The 6-foot-2, 265-pounder has set high expectations for himself going into 2023. In his junior season, Coleman’s goal is to get at least 10 sacks, 25 tackles-for-loss and 80 tackles.
“Every season I always set a goal for myself,” Coleman said. “This spring, me and my teammates are going to work hard and we going to win again. Hopefully, we have a repeat.”
Coleman sees himself as being a versatile defensive lineman in college. As for his play, Coleman called NFL defensive lineman Chris Jones an “inspiration,” with the two sharing the same number.
“I want to be a dominant force in the middle,” he said. “I can play anywhere on the D-line, but the middle, there’s just something about the middle.”
Still just a sophomore in high school, Coleman has a lot of time to decide on his college. As for now, the prospect is just worried about getting better, and growing his list of eventual college choices.
“Right now, I’m just working. I’m not really worried about committing right now. I’m just really focused on grinding, and getting more offers, so when the big day comes I can narrow it down and see who has the best program for me.”
Saraland is not a new place for Tennessee football to find a prospect. Velus Jones Jr., who committed to the USC Trojans and then transferred to the Vols in 2020, hails from there. Jones was UT’s primary slot receiver, even above Jalin Hyatt, in 2021.