By HANK KURZ Jr.
BLACKSBURG, Va. —
Kalvin Cline is bringing his own personal style to Virginia Tech’s passing game.
Call it simplicity.
The raw freshman tight end from Boca Raton, Fla., didn’t play football until his senior year of high school, but he’s been pressed into duty for the Hokies by injuries, so he’s learning on the job.
Cline caught four passes for 46 yards last week in his college debut against Western Carolina, a game he went into knowing only about 70 percent of the game plan, tight ends coach Bryan Stinespring said.
He figures to see plenty of action again Saturday when the Hokies (1-1) play at East Carolina (2-0).
The playing time comes not long after Stinespring told Cline he would likely redshirt, a plan that was scrapped when starter Ryan Malleck was lost for the season.
Malleck figured heavily in the Hokies’ passing plans, and without him, Virginia Tech’s aerial attack struggled in its opener.
At that point, the 6-foot-4, 238-pound Cline wasn’t even on the coaches’ radar, or even the travel squad.
“I was watching the game in my dorm,” he said of the opener, a 35-10 loss to No. 1 Alabama in Atlanta. Needing more options going forward, they turned to Cline, who Stinespring said has skills comparable to Malleck’s.
“He’s got really good ball skills. He gets in and out of breaks well,” Stinespring said.
A one-time basketball recruit who had offers from Richmond and several other mid-major programs, Cline said he always knew he wanted to give football a try. He finally got around to it his senior year, in part because the major college experience he wanted didn’t seem to be available through basketball.
“Football, I got a little itch for it, and when I went out there, I feel in love with that, too,” he said, noting that it also runs in his bloodlines. His father, Mike, played football at Arkansas State and was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, but had never pressured his son to follow in his footsteps.
Many of the skills the younger Cline brought from basketball have made his transition smoother.
“The physicality part is different, but a lot of the jumping, foot-speed kind of transferred over, which was a big advantage and really helped me out,” he said. “Running routes kind of transferred over great from basketball. A lot of the blocking? I’ve got to get in the weight room and get a lot stronger.”
The Hokies knew that, but focused on what he could offer. He was told two days before the Western Carolina game he’d play in the second series.
His four catches shared the team lead, and he dropped a fifth pass in the end zone.
“I was like, ‘Oh, here it comes, touchdown in your first game. First touchdown,’” he said. “But sometimes you get a little too excited. I saw a defender coming this way. Little distractions, rookie mistake. Won’t happen again.”
Stinespring was impressed nonetheless.
“If he’d have made that play,” the coach said, “he’d have played a whale of a ballgame.”