Indiana junior Tevin Coleman leads the nation in rushing, but his hold on the top spot is tenuous going into Saturday's game with defense-minded Penn State.
Coleman (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) has had 10 consecutive 100-yard games dating to last season -- the longest such streak in the nation -- and is averaging 162.5 yards per game. But his production has dropped in the past two weeks because of season-ending injuries to IU's top two quarterbacks, and his rushing lead is just 0.5 yards per game ahead of Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon.
But while his production might have dropped, his talent remains impressive. Just ask Penn State coach James Franklin.
"He kind of reminds us of (Darren) McFadden, who used to be at Arkansas. He's big, he's strong, he's a one-cut runner," Franklin said Tuesday during his weekly news conference.
NFL Media analysts were told by an AFC team executive that Coleman "has rare explosiveness." And analyst Bucky Brooks wrote that "there is always a place in the NFL for a big running back capable of being a three-down player. Thus, scouts are excited about the potential of Coleman."
As for that explosiveness, Coleman is averaging 8.0 yards per carry. cfbstats.com shows that he has 12 carries of at least 30 yards (national leader), nine of at least 40 (tied for the national lead) and five of at least 60 (tied for the national lead). Coleman's 11 TDs this season have covered an average of 36 yards.
IU had 53 plays from scrimmage in last Saturday's 34-10 loss to Michigan, and Coleman ran the ball on a bit more than half -- a career-high 27 carries, but for a season-low 108 yards. The Hoosiers managed only 191 total yards and passed just eight times.
IU coach Kevin Wilson prefers a wide-open attack, featuring three- and four-receiver sets. But with the Hoosiers down to true freshman Zander Diamont at quarterback -- a guy who was supposed to redshirt -- Coleman has gone from being the focal point of the offense to the whole offense.
"They've been really one-dimensional since they've lost some of their quarterbacks," Franklin said during his news conference, pointing out that Coleman's continued production "really speaks volumes to the type of back he is."
Coleman, who was one of the best 100-meter sprinters and long-jumpers in Illinois when he was in high school in the Chicago area, is on a pace to rush for 1,950 yards, which would break the single-season school record of 1,805 yards of Vaughn Dunbar in 1991. Dunbar was a 1992 first-round pick by the New Orleans Saints.