Standing at 6-foot 8-inches and 362 pounds, senior offensive lineman Caleb Jones is IU football’s largest player. Jones said at a press conference Friday his size has proven to be an issue for him in the past, and he worked to solve it this offseason.
Jones said the weight he played at throughout 2020, when he started four games at left tackle and one at right tackle, wasn't ideal for his goals, and he’s sure it was noticeable. Jones has aspirations of moving on to the NFL and spoke with offensive line coach Darren Hiller in January about his goals for the next calendar year.
“I just told him, ‘Hey, look, you know what you do from now until January of 2022,” Hiller said. “This next calendar year is going to make or break you.’”
Jones committed to working on his weight after that meeting, Hiller said. The process included working with IU’s strength coach, Aaron Wellman, who was hired in 2020 from the NFL’s New York Giants, and making better decisions while away from the facility.
“I think coach Wellman coming from the NFL, which Caleb has those aspirations, I think the light bulb came on,” Hiller said. “In that regard, I think that’s been big.”
Controlling his weight has been a matter of self discipline, Jones said. His father, James “Mackie” Jones, owns and operates His Place Eatery in Indianapolis. Jones said he’s avoided eating at the restaurant, which specializes in soul food and barbecue, including his favorite dish: ribs.
“It’s probably for the best, even though I want that food bad,” Jones said with a smile. “It’s good food, just not great for you.”
Jones said that he currently weighs around 350 pounds, a weight he hasn’t played at since he was in his junior year at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis.
“I’m at a really good weight that I feel a lot better at,” Jones said. “I feel a lot faster when I’m moving, I feel like I have a lot more wind.”
Jones’ improvement is noticeable – Hiller praised the improvements he’s made as well. Jones has been moving better, he’s been quicker and looks better when running and changing direction. Hiller said he noticed more progress in Jones after viewing game film from 2019 and 2020.
“It was drastic when you looked out there and you see (Jones’s No.) 77 in those two years compared to right now when I’m sitting there looking at him every day,” Hiller said.
Hiller said while Jones has been moving better with his weight, he still has work to do improving in drills and with teamwork, which Hiller has worked on with Jones during fall camp.
Beyond himself, Jones said he feels good about where the offensive line is as a whole. IU allowed the fewest sacks per game in the Big Ten last season and added sophomore center Zach Carpenter, who transferred to IU from Michigan following the 2020 season.
“The sky’s the limit for this team,” Jones said. “I fully believe that as far as we want to go as a unit is as far as we are willing to work and prepare to go.”