BLACKSBURG – The Virginia Tech football team will open practice for the 2013 season on Monday evening, but just hours beforehand, members of the media met with several of Tech’s coaches to talk about an array of topics.
Arguably the most surprising news of the day came when it was learned that Joel Caleb would be getting reps at tailback. The redshirt freshman had spent the entire spring practice working at receiver, but the coaches saw a need at tailback following Michael Holmes’ dismissal from school.
“We lost Michael, and he was one of our bigger backs,” running backs coach Shane Beamer said. “Coming out of spring, we felt we had two backs who could pound it up in there in goal-line and short-yardage situations – Michael and Trey [Edmunds]. Then when you lose Michael, you’re down to just one big back. Not that Tony Gregory or [Chris] Mangus couldn’t do it, but we’d like to have a bigger guy to do certain things.
“The worst case scenario, we’d have Joel in there in case Trey were to get hurt, and he’d have a general understanding of what we’re doing offensively.
“The other thing is that good things happen when the ball is in his [Caleb’s] hands. We’re not giving up on him as a receiver by any stretch. He’s excited about the move. He was a high school quarterback, and he’s used to having the ball in his hands. He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities here, but when he has had the ball in his hands, good things have happened.”
Caleb was a SuperPrep and a PrepStar All-American quarterback coming out of Clover Hill High School in Midlothian, Va., but Tech’s staff recruited him as a receiver. He certainly possesses the ability to run the ball, having rushed for 747 yards as a senior and 843 yards as a junior. Also, at 205 pounds, he does give the Tech backfield some size.
Beamer said the staff mulled over several different guys, including receiver D.J. Coles, a former tailback in high school.
“[Antone] Exum’s on me about playing tailback,” Beamer added, laughing. “There are a lot of guys we talked about, but we felt Joel was the guy. Maybe that’s his position, maybe not. We’re going to take the first few days and see.
“The hardest thing for him will be learning the pass protection stuff. Learning the routes will be easy, and alignments are basic. The hardest thing will be the pass protection stuff and the footwork. Today’s practice, we’re doing in one day what we did in about five practices this spring. So that’s going to be hard for him. But the first two or three days is the bulk of everything, and then it eases up.”
Beamer said Caleb would be practicing exclusively with the tailbacks the first couple of days.
“Then we’ll see where things are,” he said.
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