You can't catch Indiana running back Tevin Coleman.
He leads the nation with 12 runs of 30 yards or more, and the average distance on his touchdowns is an amazing 35.8 yards.
He’s hit every team on Indiana’s schedule with the big play. The Heisman Trophy voters haven’t caught up, but at least opposing defenses have taken notice. Coleman hears that every Saturday across the line of scrimmage.
"Sometimes they mess around with you and say, ‘You’re not going anywhere today,’" Coleman told Sporting News. "I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, you’re wrong.’ I just run the ball with velocity and try to break the big one."
Coleman leads the FBS with 170.3 yards per game and averages 8.8 yards per carry. He’s rushed for at least 100 yards in nine straight games in a streak that dates back to last season and has produced 1,515 yards and 14 TDs.
Coleman might be the best-kept secret in college football, but what’s the secret to that success?
"He's extremely fast, very decisive and he's a track guy," Indiana coach Kevin Wilson says. "He runs like he runs the 200-meter and gets an excellent burst.
"He’s got a knack for it, a little bit of it is scheme; a lot of it is him. He’s a great player."
Wilson nails it there. Coleman is a track guy by nature who starred in the 100-meter dash, long jump and high jump in high school. That home-run speed is a perfect fit in Wilson’s hurry-up offense at Indiana.
Coleman essentially is a combination of Hoosiers’ icons Anthony Thompson, who finished second in the Heisman voting in 1989, and Antwaan Randle-El, who finished sixth in 2001. One could argue Coleman is putting up gaudy numbers against the Big Ten, but he’s doing it no matter who the opponent is.
Coleman last flashed that speed with a 65-yard run against one of the nation’s top defenses in Michigan State. Coleman is the only running back to rush for more than 100 yards against the Spartans this season.
"Tevin is an excellent north-south runner," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "When he gets a crease in an offense predicated on that; he got a crease early in the game and took advantage of that. He’s an excellent running back, and there’s a reason he leads the nation in rushing."
Coleman is waging a battle for the Big Ten rushing crown with Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah. They’ve taken turns burning up the noon slot of Saturday games, and the winner of this race should land in New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Gordon and Abdullah have received more publicity, but Coleman has managed to keep pace with them each week.
The Heisman requires a signature moment, and Coleman had his against Missouri, however understated. With 1:11 left, Coleman took a screen pass 44 yards that led to the game-winning touchdown in a 31-27 upset, arguably the Big Ten’s best nonconference win.
"It was just a great play call by coach (offensive coordinator Kevin) Johns," Coleman said. "He saw it, and he wanted to get the ball to the best player for that play. He gave it to me, and I did the work from there."
There’s still work to do. Indiana is 3-4 heading into this week’s game against Michigan. The Hoosiers still have Penn State and Ohio State on the schedule. Coleman is less focused on Vaughn Dunbar's single-season school rushing record of 1,805 yards, the way-outside shot at the Heisman Trophy or NFL Draft conjecture.
He just wants to get Indiana to the postseason. The Hoosiers haven’t made a bowl game since 2007 and haven’t won a bowl game since 1991.
If Coleman can do that, doesn’t it deserve some Heisman love?
"We’ve just got to try and beat an opponent and get to the bowl game," Coleman said. "We’re working on that right now. We want to win that bowl game. I’m just trying to stay ahead."