IMPACT PLAYER 2015: Coley looks to top last season’s 140 total tackles
Published 12:05 am Tuesday, August 18, 2015
NATCHEZ — In an attempt to combat size with size, Cathedral High School head coach Ron Rushing decided to move James Allen Coley from tight end to center last season.
The reasoning behind the position change was to help combat size on the defensive front, as Coley is one of the bigger Cathedral players on the roster.
Coley didn’t care. After all, he was playing his dream position on defense at middle linebacker. So when Rushing approached the now 6’4”, 260-pound Coley about moving to center, Coley gladly accepted the challenge.
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“He looked at me and said, ‘As long as I still get to play middle linebacker, I’ll play wherever you want me to,’” Rushing said. “He’s one of the biggest team players we’ve ever had. He’s going to do what he has to in order to make this team better.”
Entering his senior year, the University of Louisiana-Monroe commit has packed on weight, but said he is still agile, recording a 4.8 in the 40-yard dash during a summer camp. In 2015, Coley will be a veteran at his position, which is something he couldn’t say a year ago.
Before the 2014 season, Rushing wanted Coley to undergo another position change, except this time it would move Coley from defensive end to middle linebacker. It didn’t take long for Coley to fall in love with the position.
“The first week of practice it was a lot of learning how to read and drop into pass coverage, but once you understand how to read, it’s one of the most fun positions,” Coley said. “Defensive end is fun, but being a linebacker, I can see everything. You can spend hours watching film and learn exactly where the ball will be going instead of reading a guard or the tackle.”
And while Coley said the move felt natural, he admits he had a bumpy start to the season. Against St. Aloyisus in the first game of the season, the Green Wave allowed 31 points, some coming off of Connor Smith runs that Coley read wrong. So Coley studied up, and quickly improved. So much so that he would end the season as an All-State middle linebacker with 140 total tackles, three forced fumbles and one interception.
“After the first games, I don’t know if it was just natural to me or something, but it clicked,” Coley said. “It just started rolling, and I never expected to end the year with 140 tackles. I expected to be average.”
Coley was one of the prominent pieces to the puzzle that Rushing used to improve his defense last season. Seeing that his defense needed to be remodeled, if you will, Rushing devoted the offseason installing new concepts and going over defensive drills repeatedly.
“(Coley’s play at linebacker) solidifies what we can do,” Rushing said. “He’s fast, he’s big, he’s physical. He can stop the run. Overall, we preach more, ‘Hey, you do your individual jobs,’ but having a linebacker that’s 6’4”, 260 (pounds), it helps. He likes contact.”
On offense, Coley will play center, but he’ll also play tight end and might even play tackle for the Green Wave. But on defense, Coley will be right in the middle, meeting opposing running backs in the hole.
He plans on topping his 140 tackles last season, too.
“I’m going for 160,” Coley said. “I’m looking to get nine or 10 against St. Aloysius Friday to start things off right.”