Back in 2012, the Virginia Tech Hokies put together a solid recruiting class that included some players that have made a big impact on the current roster. The Hokies were able to get productive players like Ken Ekanem, J.C. Coleman, Donovan Riley, Augie Conte, Deon Clarke, Nigel Williams, Trey Edmunds, and A.J. Hughes out of that class with more likely to be starters at some point down the road including Seth Dooley and possibly Desmond Frye.
However, the center piece of this recruiting class was athlete Joel Caleb out of Clover Hill High School in Midlothian, Virginia. Caleb was one of the top 3 Virginia recruits along with Eli Harold and Alex Carter, and ahead of guys like Ekanem, Edmunds, Coleman, and Clarke.
Expectations were high for Caleb entering the collegiate level at wide receiver, but after redshirting during the 2012 season, Caleb made the shift to running back during fall practice of the 2013 season. Caleb would struggle to get playing time at running back with Edmunds and Coleman both ahead of him on the depth chart.
Caleb stayed at running back for the 2014 season, but even after Edmunds, Marshawn Williams, and Shai McKenzie suffered season-ending injuries; Caleb was still stuck behind Coleman and Jerome Wright, who most thought had transferred throughout September.
Caleb did have 98 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns on 22 carries this past season, but the redshirt junior was buried on the running back depth chart. However, the coaches made the decision to move Caleb back to wide receiver, giving him the chance to compete for the third wide receiver spot.
Joel Caleb enters this fall practice down on the depth chart at the wide receiver in a battle with redshirt seniors Demitri Knowles and Kevin Asante, along with younger receivers like Deon Newsome and Jaylen Bradshaw. Caleb now has the chance to earn some significant playing time, but the question is can he earn that role.
Caleb still has good size for his position while having the strength to make some of the tough over-the-middle catches on quick passes against linebacker that he would need to make. Caleb still has some of the route-running skills that made him a four-star wide receiver out of high school, and will have had a full spring and fall to make the transition.
However, Caleb is looking like one of those players that just doesn’t really fit in what Virginia Tech wants to do offensively. Caleb is somewhat of a “jack of all trades” type player that doesn’t seem to really fit in a pro offense as a pure running back or wide receiver.
However, that could change now that Caleb has made the move back to wide receiver, but Caleb has always seemed like a more talented Chris Mangus. Mangus made the decision to transfer from Virginia Tech to East Carolina last fall, and you have to wonder if Caleb may transfer if he can’t climb up the wide receiver depth chart this fall.
With Deon Newsome being the jet sweep specialist, Caleb will have to find a way to earn a role on this team, and beat out some high-ceiling young players and older seniors desperate to finish their collegiate careers with a major roles. Caleb will likely come into fall practice with a chip on his shoulder knowing that he could go down as a “what if” player for Hokie fans.
Will Joel Caleb be able to reach some of the potential he had coming out of high school and earn a role on this team? We will just have to wait and see.