College Park, Md. - This week of practices for Friday night's Chesapeake Bowl has been the calm before the recruiting storm for Pittsburgh (Pa.) University Prep linebacker Jaylen Coleman.
The 6-0, 220-pound Coleman entered the month of December with his focus narrowed to three schools, but new interest from a pair of Big Ten programs has changed the entire complexion of the three-star prospect's recruitment.
Coleman's first official visit of the process took place the weekend of Dec. 2 to Toledo. Tim Beckman was the Rocket's coach when Coleman was on campus, but a few days later he was named the head coach at Illinois.
"The cool thing about that was, during my official visit to Toledo I was over at Coach Beckman's house and the week after I got the news," Coleman said. "That's when Illinois started calling me. Now Coach Beckman calls me every other week. I have been talking to him and Coach [Mike] Ward, who was the linebackers coach at Toledo and now is my linebackers coach at Illinois."
According to Coleman, he received an offer from Illinois shortly after Beckman took the head job in Champaign and an official visit is now being worked out for a weekend in January.
Coleman is also working on an official visit to Ohio State for the second weekend in January, after the Buckeyes have begun to show renewed interest following Urban Meyer's hiring.
"Mike Vrabel came to see me three weeks in a row," Coleman said. "They saw my film when we were playing the No. 3 team in the state and he said Coach Meyer and Coach [Luke] Fickell loved my film. I gave them some more and they said they liked that a little bit better.
"They haven't offered me yet, but they want me to come up on an official visit so hopefully they will offer me. I would be excited to get it."
While the new interest from Illinois and Ohio State excites Coleman, the two Big Ten programs have yet to unseat his current leader.
"Cincinnati is still No. 1 for me," Coleman said. "I haven't taken an official up there, but I have been there two times and I love it there. I love the coaching staff and Coach Butch Jones seems so laid-back."
An official visit to Cincinnati will "definitely" be taken in January according to Coleman, but the date of that trip has not been solidified. He also mentioned receiving regular communication from South Carolina.
Coleman's appearance in the Chesapeake Bowl follows a senior season in which he helped Pittsburgh University Prep to an 11-2 record. Doubling as a running back and linebacker for his high school team, Coleman finished the year with 100 tackles and three interceptions on defense and 1,600 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on offense.
"Ever since then I've been on a grind," Coleman said. "You have to be a student-athlete first and so I have been getting my grades better. I took my ACT's Dec. 10 and my scores should be coming back next week."
Coleman will line up for the North team in Friday night's Chesapeake Bowl. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m. EST at South River High School in Maryland.