Beamer Co.'s announcement that Joel Caleb would practice exclusively at tailback for the first couple of days of camp was a bit of a shocker. Before yesterday, I only wondered (1) if Caleb would be available against Alabama, rumors of a suspension hit the Interwebs last week, and (2) had he improved enough as a receiver to contribute this season.
Although we don't know if Caleb will be available against Alabama, Frank Beamer said, "We'll make announcements about those things later on," when asked, it's evident he's factoring into the team's long term plans this season.
"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."
The more I let that sink in, the more it makes sense. Since it's been a while, I fired up Caleb's high school highlights.
Oh yeah, that's why he was such a highly regarded four-star prospect coming out of Clover Hill. Caleb runs angry, has blazing speed, sees the field, and can cut on a dime. As Frank Beamer noted, Caleb's a stud with the ball in his hands.
"When you study it, it kind of goes back to high school," Beamer said. "When Joel had the ball in his hands, he was really a good player in high school there as a quarterback. I think that's what needs to happen to him (at Tech). I think he looks more natural...He made a couple of cuts (in the first practice) where I'm kind of convinced we're on the right path here. He's another big back. When you get past [6-1, 216-pound] Trey Edmunds, we're out of the big back business, or the bigger back business."
Who knows how long this experiment will last, but I very much like that the offensive coaches are intelligently trying to involve more playmakers into the offense. This move involves very little risk, but could yield at ton of reward. If the idea flops, all that's wasted are a few days of practice. More than likely, the Hokies end up with a contingency plan for Trey Edmunds. If Caleb blossoms in the backfield, it's possible he could have package of plays at tailback for the goal line and passing downs that take advantage of his size and create mismatches.