Saraland’s Antonio Coleman (95) slams into Lipscomb Academy quarterback Deuce Knight and causes a fumble that was recovered by Jermaine Paramore (88) during the Spartans’ 2023 season opener in August. (Todd Stacey/Call News)
By JIMMY WIGFIELD
Antonio Coleman wants anybody who sticks their head into Auburn’s defensive line starting in 2025 to see stars.
Sixteen of them, to be exact.
Saraland’s Coleman flipped his commitment from Alabama to the Tigers Friday, forming a defensive line full of junior four-star prospects in the 2025 class who are all ranked in the top 25 nationally.
Coleman (6-2, 285), the highest rated of the four at No. 13 in the U.S., according to the On3 composite, joins Opelika’s Malik Autry, Parker’s Jourdin Crawford and Kalen Edwards of Dyersburg, Tenn., as a member of one of the most decorated groups of defensive line recruits in Auburn history.
“I feel like we ought to be able to dominate the line,” said Coleman, who has also received offers from Tennessee, Clemson and Notre Dame and whose decision boosted Auburn’s 2025 class to No. 3 in the nation, according to 247 Sports. “It’s the atmosphere there and knowing I would be playing alongside other great players. I want to be part of something that’s being built instead of something that’s already there.”
Coleman, who has developed into one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the nation, had committed to the Crimson Tide in September but Auburn coach Hugh Freeze and defensive line coach Jeremy Garrett were as relentless as Coleman, calling him a couple of times a week after he committed to Alabama.
“Coach Freeze is building something that could be great,” Coleman said. “I really like coach Freeze. He’s determined and he’s really putting in the work. He’s a coach I want to win a national championship with.”
Coleman and Crawford were named Class 6A first-team All-State defensive linemen Saturday and Autry was named Class 7A second-team All-State.
Coleman is an extremely active, agile down lineman who can stop the run and get pressure on the quarterback. As a junior at Saraland, he had 62 tackles, including 22.5 for losses.
Spartans defensive coordinator Brett West said Coleman’s versatility makes him attractive to college coaches.
“We were able to move him around some and he’s quick enough to play the edge or the three technique or in shade,” West said. “I think his appeal to college coaches is you can do a lot with him. Regardless of what system you run, you can find a place for him on your defensive line and he’ll be extremely effective. He’s an athletic big guy and he’s pretty light on his feet for 290.”
While defensive linemen often toil in anonymity, Coleman is hard to miss.
“He made a huge jump from his sophomore to his junior year,” West said. “He’s always been a strong kid but he’s gotten better in the physical aspect, his explosiveness, his first twitch. He’s also gotten a lot better understanding his role … his technique, how to hold down the gap he’s got to hold down.
“This year, going in, the expectations were really high and he lived up to and exceeded those. … The stats don’t show how many double teams he had to take on. In our system, with three down linemen, 85 percent of his job is to eat up double teams and he still was one of the leading tacklers and had nearly 30 tackles for losses.”
Coleman said he can’t be defined only as a nose tackle.
“I definitely feel like I can play any position on the line of scrimmage,” he said.
Coleman is seeking continual improvement in his senior season at Saraland, which will be among the favorites to win the Class 6A state championship in 2024.
“I can get better at pass rushing and staying lower and get better with my change of direction,” he said.
His pivot in a college choice became clear in his mind in an ironic Iron Bowl, at which Coleman saw the Tigers lose to the Tide 27-24.
“Auburn has always been one of my considerations,” he said. “They were in my top seven. When I visited there the first time, I liked it. The second time I went, the Iron Bowl, I felt like that’s where I wanted to be.”
He said he had conflicting feelings when Jalen Milroe threw the winning touchdown pass to Isaiah Bond with 32 seconds remaining.
“I was happy because I was committed to Alabama at the time but I felt that Auburn was home,” Coleman said.