Handicapping the Running Back Battle: Joel Caleb

Last week I discussed how the spring game format made it very difficult to get a good measure of the offensive position battles. Different personnel groupings focused on different offensive series. The maroon group featuring J.C. Coleman and Marshawn Williams, ran mostly power plays where the offensive line blocked down play side with the back sid guard leading around. As Joe highlighted, the white team featured much more zone read and bootleg action. Because the running backs were being utilized in very different ways, the tape doesn't provide a real "apples to apples" comparison.

According to Shane Beamer in a BeamerBall.com video interview after the spring game, "if the season started today" J.C. Coleman, Trey Edmunds, and Marshawn Williams would be Tech's top-3 tailbacks. I was surprised that Joel Caleb didn't receive more praise. I had an opportunity to watch Caleb both in the final open scrimmage and the spring game, and even if you treat his long touchdown run as an outlier, he was the most effective running back in the Hokie zone running game. He was assertive cutting off the zone blocks of his interior linemen and frequently made marginal gains when the weaker white team personnel grouping didn't generate movement up front.

When he did get effective blocking, Caleb cut off those blocks and exploded into the second level. You will note, reading zone blocks was a struggle at times for the running backs last season. Some of Caleb's more effective runs came in the scrimmage, but let's take a close look again at the touchdown run.

00:00:49–00:00:57

The inside zone read flows from left to right. Caleb takes the handoff and takes two strides into the line of scrimmage. The key block is the back side combination scoop block by Brent Benedict and Mark Shuman on three-technique tackle Nigel Williams. Benedict chips Williams, keeping him to the outside. Shuman takes a backwards step to get depth, and correctly gets his head and then butt inside of Williams. Caleb plants his left foot in the ground and pushes off just slightly to the right (I recommend watching the video at its slowest setting to see the first cut).

After the chip, Benedict (whose announced weakness has always been blocking in space) changes direction with the middle linebacker and seals him to the right side. This is a very athletic block by Benedict. Caleb then plants his right leg and cuts back to the left off of Benedict's block. Meanwhile, the free safety bites on the quarterback's option fake, and is completely out of position to support on Caleb.

Those two sharp assertive cuts and effective blocking result in Caleb waltzing into in the end zone. While he isn't as physical as Trey Edmunds, Caleb has the ability to be very effective in the option game, and he showed glimpses of promise against Western Carolina last season as a regular pro-style tailback. What is holding the coaching staff back?

With so little work, it is difficult to get a feel for what more they are looking for from Caleb. The touchdown run was Caleb's last snap until he received a series late in the second quarter. His first down play was another inside read, this time to the left. You will notice quickly that this is the exact same play that Caleb scored on, this time with walk-on Marcus Mapp and right tackle Parker Osterloh combination scooping three-technique Corey Marshall.

00:04:04–00:04:09

Despite Marshall's tremendous play all spring long, Mapp and Osterloh actually do a decent job on him here. Mapp gets enough of Marshall to keep him from crossing Osterloh's face, and Osterloh gets inside position on Marshall. But, unlike the play before where mike linebacker Sean Huelskamp sat back and read the play, here he attacks the guard-center gap aggressively. Mapp isn't quick enough to chip off Marshall and drive Huelskamp across the hole. Caleb has nowhere to go. As the optioned defender, Alford does a good job of forcing Motley to hand off, yet stays close enough to the mesh point to support Huelskamp on the tackle. With the bubble collapsed on top of him, there is nowhere for Caleb to go. It is challenging to get much of an evaluation on him on this play, but the lack of creative play calling certainly contributed to Huelskamp's quick recognition.

On second down, backer Deon Clarke blitzed up the middle. Caleb was assigned to pick him up in pass protection.

00:04:09–00:04:15

Caleb, who is bigger than Clarke, squares up to him perfectly, sets, and doesn't let Clarke collapse him into Motley's lap. Perhaps you could suggest that Caleb be a little more aggressive and stick Clarke earlier, but he has good knee bend, impacts Clarke below Clarke's pad level, and he renders Clarke a non-factor on the play.

Caleb received one final series in the fourth quarter. Again, Coach Loeffler chose to utilize Caleb on inside zone reads. On first down, Adam Taraschke (in at right guard) and Parker Osterloh again combination scoop block on Corey Marshall.

00:09:19–00:09:24

Taraschke comes off the block on Marshall and turns the Mike linebacker to his left. Osterloh doesn't get inside of Marshall, but drives him inside. Walk-on defensive end Jeremy Haynes (who had a tremendous second half featuring several pressures and a sack) crashes hard inside on the dive. Motley should have kept on this play. Caleb makes a nice cut off Osterloh's block, and (with Haynes draped all over him) slides into the small bubble and drags Haynes for a couple of tough yards.

Finally, Caleb gets an opportunity to run a regular inside zone without an option read, and he breaks another big run.

00:09:24–00:09:30

Again, as I have discussed before, the inside and outside zone stretch plays only work if the running back correctly identifies the correct cut off of the uncovered offensive linemen. Caleb gets the football, takes two aggressive strides to the line and plants his right leg to cut off left guard Brent Benedict's block.

A huge gap opens up because backer Jamieon Moss blitzes off the edge from a 46 alignment, yet defensive end Seth Dooley (who should crash inside if the backer is blitzing) also goes up field into the outside gap and is sealed effectively by Jack Willenbrock (who will have a role at Virginia Tech as blocking tight end before his career is over). Caleb comfortably reads the gap, attacks it, and gets seven yards before the safeties can fill the lane. Caleb then gets close to five yards after contact.

All the excitement has been focused on Marshawn Williams after he opened camp with several highlight caliber bruising runs. J.C. Coleman is an experienced hand that the offensive coaches trust. Shai McKenzie may be the most talented back on the roster, and my feelings about the all-around quality of Trey Edmunds as a runner, receiver, and pass protector are well documented. Aside from Edmunds' performance against Miami and in the first half against Virginia, no Hokie running back has looked more comfortable in the zone running game that Coach Loeffler preferred last season than Caleb looked in the final two public auditions this spring. While there will be chatter that he could change positions (primarily because he has the most physical tools to be effective at a different position like receiver, rover, or whip), I certainly would not discount him to win playing time next season.

Comments

wow, the gifs are super helpful. excellent work as always French.

"It's worth it right? It's worth it to lay it all on the line for your brothers!"
"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster (both quotes)

Agreed! My only complaint with the YouTube clips is I hit play and I am unsure where to look because the still shot never matches what the video will show. It usually takes me 2-3 replays before I am looking at the right spots.

The gifs tell me exactly where to look and they automatically repeat.

I am sure it takes a lot more work to create the gifs, so the effort is definitely appreciated!

thanks, but all credit goes to Joe. This is a great innovation for our film reviews!

Viva El Guapo

Have you folks looked into Gfycat? Converts video to HTML5 and compresses it so it loads quickly on phones and slow internet. I made one of Caleb's block:

If you click through, it gives you controls to pause and slowly step through the video as well. Just throwing it out there as an option!

Edit: It's also completely free like imgur, otherwise I wouldn't have mentioned it =).

yes! i had seen this before but couldn't remember the name to recommend it.

Sites like Gyfcat and imgur are great, as long as you are not using a company machine. I cannot see what you posted or imgur gifs for security reasons, so I hope the film reviews do not switch to something like this. I am sure Joe keeps this in mind that a lot of the members of this site visit on their company computers and he has to make some compromises.

I can see the gifs that are in the main article, so whatever was used for that is great. Adding the gifs with the vids is a great addition.

Never make eye contact while eating a banana.

Wait, you can see Youtube videos but not imgur or gfycat? That is pretty strange. I've never worked for a company that blocked either imgur or gfycat, FWIW.

Also, why not use your phone? I can see that kinda stuff being confiscated for security concerns, but not at a place that doesn't block Youtube.

The IT policy is a bit strange. It says "Category: Online-Storage-Backup". I also cannot access Dropbox or other picture/image websites. I think it mostly has to do with "hosting" sites that involve transferring and/or storing large files.

Conversely, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are totally okay. Apparently, the VA lottery is not, because it is considered gambling.

As for using my phone, why would I, when I have two large monitors and a keyboard? I cannot use the N key function on my phone, which I have said before was the final straw that caused me to stop lurking and create a profile. I have a Galaxy Note 2 so the screen is plenty big, but it is not two large monitors. Also, being on the KeyPlay all day would kill my battery.

It is not that big of a deal, since all I usually miss are pajokie's pug gifs and a few others here and there. I usually end up seeing those at home on my phone or my laptop eventually anyway. It would be a big deal for me if gifs that I cannot see were added to the articles instead of the YouTube clips. Adding them in addition to the clips doesn't affect me either way.

Never make eye contact while eating a banana.

It's an outstanding addition; thanks guys. The worst was when an ad would pop up right as something happened, then the replay would glitch and I'd have to manually rewind. GIFs are ad-proof, and the annotations are excellent!

I do not know how they did it, but it seems as though I no longer get the YouTube ads when looking at clips on here. Is that intentional or did I somehow acquire a cloak of AdBlock?

Never make eye contact while eating a banana.

Yeah, YouTube is blocked for me at work so the gifs are fantastical

@seanhoganvt

they just block adult sites at my work but I imagine if they looked at my browsing history they would block the hell out of tkp.

"It's worth it right? It's worth it to lay it all on the line for your brothers!"
"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster (both quotes)

Dont underestimate Joel Caleb. After changing position, he has been very solid lately. He seems to be a team player like Bucky Hodges by changing position and giving the other backs credit. He has better physical tools than JC Coleman to be a productive back against physical teams. After the spring game, the depth chart should have been: Trey Edmunds, Marshawn Williams, Joel Caleb.

I'd argue it should be Edmunds, Caleb, Williams based on the two scrimmages I attended. Granted, if you include the coaches feedback and highlights from earlier scrimmages, it would be difficult to have Williams as the #3.

Viva El Guapo

Great breakdown, as usual. Last year, my only memory of Caleb was whiffing/failing to chip in pass protection. Maybe that is still in the minds of the coaches, or perhaps they are "encouraging" him to fill another role? He isn't built like the prototype RB (unless you consider Calvin Hill a prototype) but he seems to have good vision and balance.

The one name that I'm not seeing discussed by anyone re: to RB is DJ Reid. We like to speculate about McKenzie (or at least I do) but does anyone have any recon on Reid? The tidbits I've picked up reading chat boards (to the extent chat boards are accurate) are that he is qualified and he is expected to play RB.

DJ Reid is not even on campus yet, so its hard to really say anything with actual substance regarding his playing time

"Go Hokies!" - Thomas Jefferson
@HaydenDubya

Watching that above clip does not make me feel very good about Caleb's pass protection technique. The only reason I am saying anything is because having worked and ran the RB pass block drills against the linebackers for 4 years at VT back in the day and, I can tell you he did not do as good of a job as everyone thinks he did in that clip.

The RBs are first and foremost taught to be the one that delivers the blow. In the clip above, he ends up catching the LB. Watching this in full speed, it looks like the LB didn't come full speed on the bitz, and from what I see gave up on the blitz fairly quickly. If this wasn't a glorified scrimmage, and the LB came full speed Caleb would have absolutely gotten crushed on that play.

To his credit Caleb did manage to get find the blitzing LB.

What's
Important
Now

That was my issue. Form was excellent, as was finding the correct man in blitz pick up. I'd like Caleb to be more aggressive and make contact earlier. This prevents a bull rush from collapsing the pocket.

I hate to bring this up, but Caleb's effort here is far superior to this:

00:17:50–00:17:56

I still get a little sick to my stomach when I watch this ole, er, I mean play.

Viva El Guapo

I can't believe how slow Logan's decision making is...(rolls eyes)

Clarke definitely looks like he slows down and lets Caleb block him. Almost as if he is content to take away the running lanes between the DTs.

Yeah Caleb looks pretty good. It's too bad he's buried so far down the depth chart.

Great article, do you think Shane is just being secretive then? Or does it perhaps have to do with searels increased emphasis on man power blocking and brewer projected to start they are moving to less zone read running schemes? Or (as I've always worried) Shane just has a hard time pairing down rb rotations? I just find it interesting how quick Williams moved up, but a clearly talented Caleb seems stuck in the back.

I have serious concerns over Shane - I've yet to see much from him that he is a very good running back coach...he certainly does not have that background. For comparison, look at the pedigree of who's coaching running backs at some of the major programs around the country

1. Alabama - Burton Burns: Fullback at Nebraska > High School Coach > Offensive Coordinator at Tulane > Running backs coach at Clemson > Running Backs coach at Bama
2. LSU - Frank Wilson: Running Back at Nicholls State > Graduate Assistant at Nicholls State > High School Coach > High School Football State Director > Ole Miss Running Backs > Tennesee Wide Receivers > LSU Running Backs
3. Florida State - Jay Graham: Running Back at Tennessee > Graduate Assistant at UT > Running Backs Coach at UT - Chatanooga > Running Backs at UT - Martin > Running Backs at Miami of Ohio > Running Backs at South Carolina > Running Backs at Tennessee > Running Backs at FSU
4. Tennessee - Robert Gillespie : Running Back at Florida > Running backs at South Carolina > Running backs at OK State > Running Backs at WVU > Running Backs at Tennessee

The best coaches in football have intimate knowledge of their trade - - most of them played the position, then went on to refine their specific skillset over years of frequent stops and hard work - - take a look at what Aaron Moorehad is doing. On the other hand, Shane was a long-snapper who spent a few years coaching a hodgepodge of position groups. The only name on that list above who hasn't exclusive coaching running backs since they were 22 years old is Frank Wilson from LSU; however, Frank Wilson has recruting ties throughout the state of Louisiana since he was a highly successful high school coach and athletic director at one of the most successful athletic high schools in New Orleans.

I believe Shane may be a little out of his league in many ways...I believe his running back rotation / philosophy has been quite poor the last few years, and I expect it to continue this year despite what most would consider to be a fully stocked cupboard. He certainly does not have intimate knowledge of the position, so how can we expect him to teach our players the nuances of the position required for success?

Best case scenario - Shane gets a head job at a FCS school and we hire an actual running backs coach this year for our 2015 and 2016 national championship runs.

I've had questions about Shane too, but a lack of pedigree doesn't mean he can't do the job. If a guy with less experience can get the same or better results than someone with experience, then who cares?

I'm more conerned with results. The results under Shane have been a mixed bag, but that's a function of about a million different factors. The only thing I think you can really say definitively about him is that he recruits well. He'll definitely need to earn his check this year with how he handles the crowded backfield, but I'm not about to start calling for him to lose his job.

"No, we will not die like dogs, we will fight like lions!"

who needs pedigree when you've got a boxing glove on a pole?

I think "BoxingGloveOnAPole" would make a great screen name...similar to HorseOnATreadmill.

VHokie

We need him as a recruiter.

"Go Hokies!" - Thomas Jefferson
@HaydenDubya

Since we are trying to increase our recruiting staff anyway, I think it would be better if Shane moved to one of the recruiting positions. Then we could bring Hite back on as the running backs coach, and Shane can learn from him.

Hite retired after 33 years at Tech. I don't think he is coming back.

Billy Hite is old. He worked at Tech for almost 30 years. He's not coming back.

VT 2016
Go Hokies

Though unrelated to the greater subject matter, nice synopsis on Frank Wilson. His Louisiana background was well documented in Bruce Feldman's book "Meat Market," where his ties to the area were a key factor in their near-signing of Joe McKnight.

@PhillyHokie007

Well we did bring Beamer Jr on primarily for his recruiting. He stuck at rb coach as it was open, Hite was still around and could provide outside assistance, and rb had always been our strong suit in our offense. While I haven't seen anything from him as a rb coach that impresses me, I'm really not knowledgeable enough on the x's and o's to make a judgment on him yet, though know there is enough it there of him that a more knowledgeable person might be able to come to a conclusion

Yea I think most would agree he's a little out of place, should probably be Special Teams or a small role on Defense like he was at USC. Only problem is, there is no room for a ST coach and he's definitely not taking a spot on our defensive staff. He has tremendous value as a recruiter so we have to hold on to him but I wish we could find another coaching spot for him.

Didn't we give a Running Coordinater type job to our O-Line coach last year. I think something like that could cover Shanes short comings a little.

I agree with all that is being said here. There was a noticable drop off in Running back production once Hite left. Another factor is that Shane came on the staff right before Newsome left and Newsome turned our O-Line into a D1 Joke.

Even Hite would tell you that the guys he coached... didn't need much coaching.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

When he introduced me to one of our backs who is now in the league, he told me, "when he got here he couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time." They may not have needed him to tell them "run fast and don't fall down," but there's a lot more to playing RB than that.

Shane is a good running back coach and good recruiter. He works well with the other offensive coaches. He paid his dues by coaching in the SEC, other ACC school before joining VT. His problem seems to be that of Coach Frank Beamer: too loyal.

Good summary and good points. I can't remember who had said it, maybe Phil Fulmer, but at some point, for some young coach, he had a piece of advice for the younger guy who was just starting his coaching career. It went something like, "If you ultimately want to coach offense, start your career by coaching defense". Apparently, Fulmer (or whoever it was) was of the opinion that the more you knew about your opponent, the better you could coach against them.

Having said that, I do think there is a weird, almost 'intern level' of sampling among his prior coaching responsibilities.

relax

-Mr. 501

"If there is oxygen in your brain, you're not loud enough"

I'm not sure how this thread has turned into a Shane Beamer witchhunt, but I would also like to see more Caleb and less JC this season.

I think JC has seen more carries than his production deserves in his career at VT so far.

"When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." -Ray Kroc

Think about it ^^^^ I made a funny
LOL

"I'm high on Juice and ready to stick it in!" Whit Babcock

"It ain't easy bein steezy"

#VanillaVick will lead us to the promise land

"Witchhunt"? Really?

Seems like a valid question was raised. You could perhaps counter with statistics and opposing opinion, but calling a reasoned post a "witchhunt" isn't terribly constructive.

Not a witchunt, just a statement that, based on his resume, Shane is not nearly as qualified as some of his peers.

Experience doesn't necessarily mean more qualified...I'd argue Moorehead is one of the better WR coaches in the business and he's only had one year under his belt.

Shane is an excellent RB coach and recruiter.

Moorehead played WR in college, in the NFL for 5 years, and was a WR graduate assistant under one of the best coaching staffs in the country at Stanford. Like many of the names I referenced above, he has intimate knowledge of his position group.

Shane was a long snapper who coached special teams, corner backs, and running backs.

Not trying to pile on Shane here, but see what I mean?

Sorry... this is what I get for reading from work.

I didn't follow the thread well on who posted what.

I think we agree.

I'd like to see better production under Shane's coaching, but as has been noted previously, unless there are some glaring deficiencies in Caleb's game that hasn't shown up in film we have access to, he seems to be a much better back than 4th string.

I guess we'll have to see what comes out of fall camp.

That said: Here's for an offense that clicks regardless, and lots of backs get lots of carries in mop-up duty early in the third quarters.

AGREE 100 % . Shane is a decent recruiter but does not have the background or qualifications to be running back coach. Billy Hite where are you ?

georgebd

I thought Shane took over in 2011 and was the coach when DW set the record and was All ACC back . I think 1700 yds or so . So maybe it is the talent not so much the coach here . I like Shane and think he will be fine but he has not had a lot to work with the last 2 years both OL wise and what talent we had was very inexperienced.

Coastal 1

One thing you have to acknowledge with RBs last year, no fumbles.
I want to see what the RBs do with a few holes to run through before I criticize too much.
No fumbles is a huge positive.

Danny caught that ball.

Friends don't let 5 star friends commit to UVA.

I have inside info. - Whit

Can we just convert Shane Beamer to Tight End (coach)?

VHokie

Deja vu. I don't think we can have two tight end coaches though.

Virginia Tech 42, #11 Miami 24 - Da U, still not back

Shane Beamer:1) 2013 1st time in Frank Beamers tenure at VT that no (0) RB's fumbled the ball. 2) He's had to work with 2 OC's, 3 if you don't combine the abortion we had before SL. 3 OL coaches, and a somewhat empty cuboard in RB and OL recruits. It's easy to be a good RB coach with Suggs, Jones, Imoh, Ore, Evans, Williams, Wilson etc etc. Let's give him some stability in coaches and see how he does with Trey, Marshawn, Shei and the rest of the boys before we start to question his talents as a RB coach.

"Sure, I've been called a xenophobe, but the truth is, I'm not. I honestly just feel that America is the best country and the other countries aren't as good. That used to be called patriotism." Kenny Powers

A little OT on the whole Shane Beamer debate, but I think it's worth mentioning that, having seen him in practice, he definitely knows what he's doing. There aren't a whole lot of frills when it comes to coaching running backs. You have some basic technique things and the steps you take for each play, but then you just go out and let the players play. It's a much simpler coaching task than, say, a QB's reads/techniques/mechanics. Billy Hite wasn't teaching his RBs any special, secret tricks he picked up as a tailback in the 70s, it was all just the same technique. Beamer has been around enough places to justify his position on our staff (and say what you want about the boxing glove on a pole, but no Tech running back fumbled this year), his recruiting ability is exactly what is needed right now, and the issues our RBs have had are a function of a whole bunch of factors. All this to say, I wouldn't worry a whole heck of a lot about Shane. It's not like Lefty isn't making his own personnel decisions anyways.

While perhaps not articulated as well in the course of this discussion, I think the primary criticism of Shane isn't his ability to teach running back fundamentals, but rather his failure to come up with a cohesive running back rotation and using each back situationally to their strengths.

Viva El Guapo

Again, I can't put the blame all on Shane. He makes recommendations, but he's far from the only one making personnel decisions.

It's third & 1 let's run Coleman between the tackles again!

georgebd

I would think Loeffler would make the personnel decisions for his play-calling and design. After all, aren't we giving Loeffler credit for putting Carlis Parker in position to be effective on jet sweeps? Wouldn't he also choose which RB to run in certain situations?