Four years ago, in the spring of 2005, Kellen Beam signed with Idaho in Nick Holt's second recruiting class. Beam grayshirted the '05 season, then enrolled at Idaho in 2006 and watched the transition from Nick Holt to Dennis Erickson. Under Erickson, Beam moved to offensive tackle and had battled for starting duties each of the last two years. This spring, Beam is getting another shot at tightend with the Vandals, and has proven to be a bruising blocker on the outside.
There may actually be no better sign of the depth the Vandals have developed on the offensive line the last five years then this opportunity for an athlete of Beam's 6-7 size to move to tightend this spring. Four years ago, Idaho struggled to field two full offensive lines for practice (this included walkons and scholarship players), and for years Idaho was forced to play true freshmen up front. Now, in head coach Robb Akey's third season at Idaho, the Vandals are three deep (minimum) across the line, and the athletic and versatile Beam can move back to the original position he signed with Idaho to play.
Below is our discussion with Kellen after Saturday's scrimmage.
Q: When you were in high school you were a standout tightend at Gonzaga Prep. Did you sign as a tightend at Idaho, or as a tackle?
KB: "I signed (with Nick Holt) as a tight end and then when Erickson came in he tried me out at offensive tackle, and I was there for two or three years. I'm finally getting a chance to play tight end again."
KB: "Well, It was kind of like I threw it around to them that I wanted to play tightend again. I think the biggest reason was I had a hard time holding the weight that they wanted me to play tackle at. Not getting the weight up, and the fact that I could probably help them out with blocking at tightend is a big plus; so they thought they'd give me a chance at that."
Q: How tall are you, and what (weight) did you try to play at as a tackle? What is it going to be as a tight end?
KB: "Before, when we got back from winter break, they had my weight goal at 280 -- 6-7, 280 they wanted me as. But right now I'm 6-7, 255; about 30 pounds short."
Q: Tell us: How do you like it now at tightend? Is that the position you've always wanted to play here?
KB: "Well, it takes a little bit of getting used to again. I still have a lot of offensive line stuff going through my head, but it helps out playing tightend. Getting used to it. I like it. I've always liked playing tightend; so it's something I enjoy."
Q: Is anything you learned when you were working for two years with the O line as a tackle helping you out as a tight end?
KB: "Oh yeah, definitely, like footwork and a little pass blocking as a tightend, too. That's really helped me, giving me an advantage when blocking. I still need work on my route running, but that'll come in time."
Q: One of the plays in scrimmage action at practice Tuesday you were tightend and they ran a sweep around you, and you collapsed somebody, driving him past the center. Do you remember that play?
KB: "Oh, yeah. I think it was a sweep. I was supposed to keep the outside containment."
Q: Oh yeah, it was contained. Have your blocking assignments changed at tightend as opposed to offensive tackle?
KB: "Uh, not so much. I'm always blocking D ends now and I have to block linebackers; so that's a little different, having to block linebackers too. Playing offensive line helped me know the assignments at tightend; so I pretty much have it down."
KB: "Not so much. I think they want me more like on the line blocking straight ahead."
Q: How does it feel to be catching passes again? Has it been a big transition?
KB: "It takes a little bit of getting used to because I've had to pass block and hit things instead of catching. It takes a little bit of getting used to, catching balls again, but I'm getting it back."
Q: Is there any difference in the velocity here at the Division I level as opposed to what you were used to at G-Prep?
KB: "My quarterback in high school was baseball player, so he had an arm on him. Mostly it's increased in speed a little bit."
Q: What do you think your strengths are as a tightend now and how do you think you can help the offense this fall as a tight end? Is this a permanent change?
KB: "I don't know about permanent. I think they are mostly seeing what I can do, but I think my strength is the blocking part, what they want me to do. I think I can do that, help the team out and win more games."
Q: What does your family think about the position change?
KB: "My dad's always been for it. He didn't really agree with Erickson switching me to tackle, but they're all for it [the move back to tight end]. They're excited about it; so I'll see what I can do."
Q: How do you think it's been going for you, from your personal point of view?
KB: "I think pretty good. Just some stuff that I still need to learn, but it's coming along. I think I'm getting it."
Q: Have they got you slotted -- like 1, 2 or 3, or are you just floating?
KB: "I'm mostly 2's right now but Coach Axman throws me in with the 1's every now and then, experimenting a little bit. Mostly 2's right now."