Created:Tuesday, March 30, 2010 9:59 p.m.CDT

Coleman has helping hand in transition

Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill (center, standing) talks to his team after a practice at Huskie Stadium. (Rob Winner –

DeKALB – When it comes to Adam Coleman's transition from defensive tackle to tight end, Northern Illinois has seen this film before.

The mistakes and the good plays the soon-to-be junior makes at each spring practice at Huskie Stadium remind most people of what another NIU tight end did in the past two years, junior Jason Schepler.

That's the first thing Schepler mentioned when asked to assess Coleman's first week of spring practices at tight end.

"He's pretty good. Right now he really likes it so he's out there being aggressive," said Schepler, a Sycamore graduate. "But playing tight end, you've got to be more under control. He's from the D-line so he just wants to smash people. That's what I wanted to do my freshman year."

Over the previous two seasons at defensive tackle, where he played as a true freshman, Coleman easily was one of the most aggressive players on the team, unafraid to mix it up with an offensive lineman or anyone else who tried to block him.

Even though he played some tight end at Bettendorf (Iowa) High School, Coleman knows he needs a different mentality on the offensive side of the ball.

"At defensive tackle, you can get intense, but on offense you have to be composed and get under control," he said. "You can't just go out and try and smash somebody.

"You try and go out and be aggressive, but then bad things happen. You just have to be under control on offense."

That's where Schepler comes in and has tried to help Coleman smooth over the rough parts of the transition.

"I can kind of teach him up and you've just got to play under control at tight end," Schepler said. "Those defensive guys can snap you down if you're out of control. We've just got to help him play under control and he'll be a good tight end."

That aggression and physical play was part of the reason Coleman switched positions toward the end of International Bowl practices. A strong spring will put Coleman in the mix for significant playing time in the fall.

Coleman said the move was a mutual decision between he and NIU coach Jerry Kill, and so far he's enjoying the new spot, especially the passing game.

"That's pretty fun, just learning some of the deeper routes," Coleman said. "The short routes aren't bad either. It's just a lot of learning."

The junior acknowledged that it will take a while to learn the position, but if Schepler is the template to follow, Coleman could play a role in the fall.

"I just try and come out each day and improve on little stuff," Coleman said. "Hopefully it will click after a while."

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