Former Garfield star Deandre Coleman hoping for NFL chance
Deandre Coleman was one of the best defensive linemen in the country when he played at Garfield High School. He chose to play at California, where things didn’t go as he had hoped. But he has skills that will likely entice an NFL team to draft him in May.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Each of the four days players were available to the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, the pattern was the same.
After having their measurements taken, players would head to the media center, an announcement made as they entered that they would be available at a specific podium or side table.
When the names of Michael Sam, Johnny Manziel or Jadeveon Clowney were read, reporters and cameramen stopped whatever they had been doing to rush to the announced podium, every seat immediately taken, latecomers resigned to standing in deep rows.
Near the end of the final day of media availability came the announcement for defensive tackle Deandre Coleman of California.
Placed at a side table, Coleman was greeted by two reporters. Coleman is, after all, a player deemed a mid- to late-round prospect from a school coming off a 1-11 season.
There was a time when Coleman’s name drew a lot more attention.
In fall 2008, as a senior at Garfield High, he was considered the top college prospect in the state, generally called the best defensive-line prospect on the West Coast and among the top 100 or so recruits in the nation. He had offers from just about every school on the West Coast, as well as LSU and Texas A&M.
He thought for a while about staying home and becoming a Husky, at one point publicly committing to UW.
But that was the fall that UW fired Tyrone Willingham midseason while going 0-12, and Coleman eventually changed his mind and committed to Cal at the height of the Jeff Tedford era, having won eight or more games four of the previous five seasons.
“No regrets,’’ Coleman said. “I had a good experience there.’’
Even if the road was a little rockier than he might have anticipated, the Bears free-falling to just four wins his final two seasons.
Coleman was hardly a bust at Cal, though. He played in all 49 games in four years with the Bears, making 25 starts and finishing with 26.5 tackles for loss. And evidence of his standing among his teammates, he was voted a team captain before his senior season.
But Coleman went to the combine last week saying he hoped to show NFL scouts he can do a lot more than he showed in his time at Berkeley.
“I feel like my potential is really high, my ceiling is really high,’’ he said. “I’m only going to get better in the NFL.’’
Some NFL team is almost certain to agree, the only question being how high of a pick they will want to use.
Coleman certainly looks the part, measuring 6-feet-4½, 314 pounds. Rob Rang, a draft analyst for CBSSports.com and NFLDraftScout.com, says Coleman has “a lot of the athletic traits you are looking for, and that’s one of the things that makes him intriguing.’’
Coleman also turned some heads with a solid performance at the Senior Bowl.
Rang, though, says Coleman’s Cal tape shows “inconsistent production’’ and that it doesn’t help that it’s a pretty deep year for defensive linemen.
“I think that could push him down to maybe the early portions of day three (rounds 4-7),’’ Rang said. “But he is a guy who is very gifted, and I think he could end up being a solid contributor in the NFL.’’
Coleman certainly showed flashes of that at Cal, leading the Bears in tackles for loss (9.5) and tackles for a defensive lineman (40) in 2013.
But that was easy to overlook in a season when the Bears went 0-9 in the Pac-12, fielding one of the statistically worst defenses in the conference’s recent history.
That came in the first season for coach Sonny Dykes, who replaced Tedford, who had been fired. The Bears used their third defensive coordinator in Coleman’s five years.
Coleman said it was a little difficult learning three different systems, which also changed his role from year to year. He played primarily nose guard as a senior after playing mostly end and tackle earlier. But he says that might work in his favor as he can show the NFL he is versatile, though he says teams are looking at him mostly as an early-down run defender (in the style of a Brandon Mebane, also a former Cal Bear, or Red Bryant).
Coleman briefly debated leaving Cal for the NFL after the 2012 season. But despite the struggles of 2013, he says, “I’m glad I stayed.’’
He says he needs just two classes to get a degree in language and science, and thinks playing through the adversity of the 2013 season will help prepare him for what comes next.
“I was watching it on TV earlier and it was like, ‘Man, I’m really here at the combine,’ ’’ he said. “I’m glad I’m here.’’
He hoped as he left that someone noticed.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699
or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta