Virginia Tech’s Joel Caleb is excited about his recent move from wide receiver to running back, eager to have the ball in his hands a lot more.
That won’t be until after the season opener, however.
As expected, Caleb is suspended for the Alabama game because of an unspecified violation of team rules. The redshirt freshman read a prepared statement before interviews Tuesday.
“I broke a team rule and will miss our first game of the season against Alabama,” he said. “I’ve learned from this, and that’s the only comment I’ll make. I will be glad to answer any football-related questions.”
The nature of Caleb’s suspension, which has been rumored for weeks, was not disclosed, although it will be for one game. Neither head coach Frank Beamer nor his assistants would address Caleb’s status after the Hokies’ first practice Monday night, but Caleb said he was told a couple weeks ago.
The 6-foot-2, 203-pound redshirt freshman is a former top-100 recruit trying to find a position. He was a quarterback at Clover Hill High in Midlothian, one who got plenty of carries in a Wildcat-like scheme, but moved to receiver last fall.
Now he’s trying his hand at running back. The move was prompted in part because of Michael Holmes’ dismissal over the summer, since it left Trey Edmunds as the only bigger tailback on the roster. But it was also aimed at getting a potential play-maker the ball more.
“I think it’s a lot easier,” said Caleb, who thought he was coming along at receiver. “The reason being is because I touched the ball pretty much every play in high school. Just having the ball in my hands, I’m used to that.”
“He’s an explosive player. He’s a dynamic player,” quarterback Logan Thomas said. “That’s the type of things you need.”
He’s not overwhelmingly powerful — in fact, Thomas said he thinks J.C. Coleman, despite his size, is more powerful — but he is the second-biggest of a tailback group that includes Coleman (5-7, 191), Tony Gregory (6-1, 187) and Chris Mangus (6-0, 184). Caleb showed some power in the spring during a T-Time drill in the stadium, running over a defender prior to one of the scrimmages.
“I like playing physical, being physical,” Caleb said. “I never had a problem getting hit. I like to deliver the blow [rather] than be hit.”
“He’s going to be hard to tackle,” Edmunds said. “And I think as soon as the running back position slows down for him and he starts to learn it, he’s going to be amazing. Because just yesterday, it was his first day and he was wonderful.”
Caleb said it took some work to get used to the tempo of handoffs and where to be on pass protections in the Hokies’ first practice, but he already wouldn’t mind if the move was permanent.
“I feel like I’m a little more involved with the offense,” he said. “I would have no problem staying there.”
Here are a few more notes from Tuesday’s round of interviews …
– The Hokies’ offensive line had a different look Tuesday night from Monday. Mark Shuman worked with the first team at left tackle, Caleb Farris at left guard and David Wang at center. The first night, Jonathan McLaughlin was the left tackle, Brent Benedict the left guard and Farris the center.
“I told them at our meeting: Nobody’s earned a spot yet,” Grimes said Monday night. “That’s what training camp is for.”
The Hokies are looking to replace three departed seniors on the offensive line. The first-team group in the spring game was, from left to right, McLaughlin, Shuman, Farris, Andrew Miller and Laurence Gibson, although that appears to have little meaning right now.
“He switches guys in and out every day,” McLaughlin said of Grimes. “The depth chart’s never the same until about three weeks from now. Then you’ll know who the starting offensive line is.”
– Coaches and teammates raved about redshirt freshman walk-on receiver Charley Meyer this offseason, and it appears the Hokies will soon back that talk up with a scholarship.
Meyer, who turned down an offer to play for the Naval Academy to walk-on at Tech, said Beamer told him in the spring that he’d done enough to earn a full ride. The Hokies are still checking the numbers to see if one is available. If Meyer doesn’t get one this August, he’ll get one in January.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder from Benedictine High in Richmond is in the top four on the depth chart at receiver, listed as Demitri Knowles’ backup at flanker. More on him a little later this week.
– Running backs coach Shane Beamer said yesterday that he is trying to figure out how the carries will be split at running back, whether that means a 50-50 split between two backs or something like 2011, when David Wilson got two series for every one by Josh Oglesby.
Edmunds is on board no matter how Tech wants to use him, which, from the sounds of it, will depend on situations.
“We all bring different things to the table and we’re all unique with our games and we’re able to make plays at any time,” Edmunds said.
– Tech has jumped straight in to installing the bulk of its offense, something offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said the Hokies would do as soon as possible when August practice began.
“I think we’re far away, but with how camp is, it’s easy to understand your stuff, easy to learn your stuff and be better from it,” Thomas said. “Obviously it’s like 3½ weeks out, but at the same time, it’s a long and short period of time for us.”
– Thomas said he got everything he wanted out of the offseason. (“We grinded,” he said.) One of the most important things was building a rapport with the receivers, most of whom didn’t have large roles in last year’s offense.
“I just wanted to be able to get comfortable with my guys and my guys get comfortable with me,” he said.
“It means everything, because you want them to see the same thing you see. And you see a zone in the coverage, you want them to sit down, but they don’t see it and run through it. You’re not on the same thing and you don’t get a completion out of it. That’s what makes it really tough and that’s what makes all this practice so important is getting used to those guys.”