Penn State picked up its second commitment from Wyomissing in back-to-back years last month with the addition of Caleb Brewer a few hours after the Blue-White Game. Checking in at 6-foot-4, 295 pounds, Brewer could play either guard or defensive tackle when he arrives in State College next year. That’s why he’s listed as an athlete currently.
A high three-star prospect, Brewer earned more than two dozen scholarship offers dating back to junior season. Schools like Maryland, NC State, Rutgers and Syracuse all earned visits, but the Nittany Lions predominantly beat out Duke, Michigan and Notre Dame for his commitment.
To get to know Brewer better, we caught up with Steve O’Neil, Wyomissing’s offensive and defensive line coach, to get a better feel for what Penn State fans can expect from Brewer in the years to come.
Ryan Snyder: When did you first get to know Caleb? You’ve been around Wyomissing football for decades now. Did you know him at all before he got to high school?
Steve O’Neil: Caleb transferred to Wyomissing in seventh grade from Twin Valley. So, I didn’t know Caleb before that, but he stood out as soon as he came because he was already a big unit. He stood out right away. When him and J’ven [Williams] were lined up next to each other for a year in junior high, it was exciting. I knew we had two impressive-looking players coming up.
Snyder: What’s Caleb’s personality like? What’s he like as a leader or in the locker room?
O’Neil: Caleb is like two different people. When he’s on the field or on the wrestling mat, he’s a bull. I often have to crank him down in practice, which is rare for high school players. I have to tell him to be easy on the young guys. But I love his effort and how much he gets after it.
I don’t want to speak too much for our wrestling program, but he was named a captain for them as a junior, so that tells you that he’s a natural leader. I’ve been around Wyomissing football since I was five. It’s very rare that we have captains who aren’t seniors. We just don’t do that. We don’t start young guys, either. They have to earn everything for football. But he’s great with his teammates and in the locker room. He certainly leads by example every day. Off the field, he’s a funny guy. He always makes me laugh. Academics are so important to him, too. That was a major reason why he ended up at Penn State.
Snyder: Let’s talk about that for a minute. I thought for a long time that Notre Dame was going to be the school for Caleb. I thought Michigan was also in a good spot, so the Penn State commitment surprised me a bit when we started to hear a few days before that it could happen Blue-White Weekend. How did Penn State win him over?
O’Neil: When you look at the teams that were in it – Duke, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State – they’re all schools where academics matter. Once he took that unofficial visit to Penn State [in January], it changed everything for him. I don’t think he realized how important academics were to Coach [James] Franklin. That made a huge impact on him and his recruitment. I don’t think he realized that Penn State had similar standards to Michigan and Notre Dame. It really did change everything for him.
I wouldn’t say that location was a major influence for him at first, but once he started traveling the country more, he started thinking more and more about his family having to take flights all the time to see him play. So, I think that, plus the combination of Franklin stressing graduation rates and everything like that, that’s how Penn State won Caleb over. Those two factors changed everything for Caleb.
Snyder: On the field, what stands out to you? You coach him on both sides of the ball. What are his strengths? What comes naturally to him?
O’Neil: I could see him as a guard or as a defensive tackle. He plays with such physicality and a nastiness. One thing I love is that he always finishes. Sometimes he’ll play through the whistle. As long as he doesn’t get called for it, I love it. When you watch his highlights, he also does a great job blocking one guy and then transitioning to the next.
We had him playing tight end in a Wing-T offense, and I give him kudos for it because you’re going to block 95 percent of the time. We had an all-state tight end who went to Richmond prior to Caleb. He picked things up right where [Aiden Mack] left off and may have taken it to another level. So, I have to say his physicality has to be what stands out. He’s just always driving guys forward.
Snyder: Do you think he could play defensive tackle at Penn State?
O’Neil: I think he certainly could be a one or three-technique. He’s our nose most of the time, although we’ll play him more as a [three-tech] this year to take advantage of his athleticism and angles. Again, he’s just such a physical player. He’s an excellent wrestler, too. He knows how to use leverage, which is so important as a defensive tackle. I think he absolutely could play defensive line for Penn State if he’s not going to be a guard.
Snyder: Anything else you can share on Caleb? Anything people don’t know about him?
O’Neil: I would just stress how tough of a kid Caleb is. A lot of people thought he broke his wrist during wrestling season this year, which is why he couldn’t compete in the postseason. That’s actually not what happened. He broke it in June or July last year. A doctor told him it was a sprain, but what he learned is that he played the entire football and wrestling season with a broken wrist. He was able to get through football with it, but with wrestling, where you really use your hands, he realized it wasn’t just a deep sprain. So, six months later, after still having a lot of pain in his wrist, he goes to the doctor at the end of December. That’s when he learned he played the whole season with a broken wrist.
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