BLACKSBURG - Many expected Joel Caleb to come to the pre-practice interview session and answer questions about the plans for him getting repetitions at the tailback position.
Instead, he delivered news that had been rumored for a while now.
Caleb will miss Tech’s season opener with Alabama for a violation of team rules. The redshirt freshman from Midlothian, Va., told the media on Tuesday and refused to get into specifics as to why he was suspended.
“I broke a team rule and will miss our first game of the season against Alabama,” Caleb 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.”
Caleb then took questions on his move to tailback. The former SuperPrep and a PrepStar All-American quarterback out of Clover Hill High School came to Tech as a receiver, but running backs coach Shane Beamer asked him about moving to tailback in light of Michael Holmes’ dismissal from school, and Caleb agreed to it.
Caleb certainly possesses the ability to run the ball, having rushed for 747 yards as a senior and 843 yards as a junior in high school from the quarterback position. He played more as a “Wildcat” type of quarterback than a traditional quarterback. Also, at 205 pounds, he does give the Tech backfield some size.
“I like it a lot,” Caleb said of the move. “I think it’s a good move for me and for the football team.
“I think it’s probably an easier move for me because I touched the ball pretty much on every play in high school. Just having the ball in my hands, I’m used to that.”
His biggest challenge will be learning the pass protections. Most young running backs excel with the ball in their hands, but most struggle in protection because they aren’t used to blocking.
“It didn’t feel too weird,” Caleb said of his first practice at tailback. “I ran the ball a lot in high school, so I know pretty much what to do. Running is natural for me. I’ve just got to get adjusted to the blitz pick-ups and my footwork and my timing with the quarterbacks.”
Tech’s coaches plan on looking at Caleb for the first 2-3 practices and then determining whether he stays at tailback or goes back to receiver. He hopes the move is permanent.
“I’d like the switch to be permanent,” Caleb said. “I like touching the ball. I feel like I’m more involved with the offense. I wouldn’t have any problem staying there.”
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