Indian receiver catches terrible news

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Southeast Missouri State University's wide receiver position, a question mark to begin with, took another hit Tuesday when sophomore Bill Coleman was declared academically ineligible for the remainder of the season by the NCAA.

Coleman was Southeast's second-leading returning receiver from last year, when as a redshirt freshman he caught 32 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns.

"It's a big blow," Southeast coach Tim Billings said after receiving the news prior to Tuesday's practice.

Coleman did not make the trip for the Indians' season-opening loss at Division I-A Ohio University on Thursday as Southeast officials awaited word from the NCAA regarding his eligibility.

According to Southeast compliance director Alicia Scott, Coleman did not meet the NCAA's progress toward a degree requirement that encompasses a variety of guidelines. Coleman reportedly fell one hour short of being eligible, which had led Southeast to petition the NCAA through a waiver. That petition was denied Tuesday.

"He was very close," Scott said. "I thought we had a real good shot with the waiver, but it's hard to guess what the NCAA committee will decide."

"I'm not going to rule out that we're not going to appeal this decision after we receive all the paperwork from the NCAA."

Coleman will be allowed to practice with the Indians and will have two more seasons of eligibility after this year.

Meanwhile, Billings knows the Indians' receiving corps -- which saw All-American Willie Ponder and key component Tarik Simpson complete their eligibility last season -- will be even more hard-pressed to produce.

Chris NesSmith, Southeast's leading returning receiver from last year with 38 catches, caught six passes in the opener. The only other returning receiver with considerable experience is Jamel Oliver, who caught six passes last year and had two receptions in the opener.

"By the end of the year I think we'll be fine, but right now it really hurts us as far as experience," Billings said.

Offense's opening night draws Billings' ire

As the Indians prepare for Saturday night's regionally televised home opener against rival Southern Illinois (1-0), Billings knows Southeast's offense needs plenty of work.

During his weekly media conference Tuesday morning, Billings had little praise for his offense. The Indians averaged 447 yards and 34.7 points per game last year but managed just 300 yards and three points against Ohio despite numerous opportunities in the red zone.

After going over the many offensive positions that he felt Southeast sputtered at in the opener, Billings said, "As you can tell, I'm not very happy with our offense right now. I didn't think anybody played well. We have to get a lot better."

Billings said Jack Tomco will likely start again at quarterback on Saturday, but he didn't say for certain that all three quarterbacks would see action, as was the case against Ohio when Jeromy McDowell and Andrew Goodenough also played.

Tomco, who threw for 3,132 yards and 29 touchdowns last year to set school records in both categories, went most of the way against Ohio but completed just 13 of 31 passes for 202 yards. He also threw two interceptions.

"He'll probably start Saturday," Billings said. "If he wants to lead this football team, he needs to take charge."

As for the possibility of McDowell and Goodenough playing, Billings said, "I don't know. That will be determined by how the game goes."Noteworthy

n The Indians' only injury of note from the Ohio game was starting strong safety Mike Miller, who banged up a knee and is questionable for Saturday. If Miller can't go against SIU, Nate Johnston will start.

mmishow@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 132

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