Because of the exceptional receiver talent in the McEachern (GA) High School football program, it took a while for Kaleb Webb to establish himself. But as a senior this season the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder has emerged as one of the top playmakers in Georgia, piling up more than 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns receiving and over 600 yards on returns.
Even before Webb began producing such impressive statistics at receiver, East Carolina’s coaching staff recognized his potential after watching him perform in their camp last summer. The early faith shown by ECU eventually resulted in Webb giving the Pirates a verbal commitment on June 27 over scholarship offers from Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Tennessee, Tulane, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Liberty, Navy and Western Kentucky.
“Before he really had a chance to establish himself at receiver for us, East Carolina saw him run, run the routes in their summer camp and they offered him based on that,” said McEachern head coach Franklin Stephens. “A lot of others saw him and didn’t offer. But East Carolina thought he could play. They didn’t make the excuses that they needed to see this or see that. They thought he could be a player and he could come and help them win. I think the early confidence they showed in Kaleb meant something to him.”
McEachern is one of the top Class AAAAAA programs in Georgia and has produced literally dozens of Football Bowl Division players over the last decade. Among those are offensive lineman Tremayne Achrum (Clemson), who is now with the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, and offensive lineman Chuma Edoga (Southern Cal) with the New York Jets.
But when Webb joined the McEachern varsity as a freshman in 2018, the lineup featured two receivers who would eventually earn scholarships to national power programs. For his first two years on the varsity, Webb played mostly on defense while Javon Baker (Alabama) and Decari Collins (Clemson) headlined the receiving corps.
Webb wound up with six receptions for 48 yards during the 2019 season as a sophomore.
“I took this job for his 10th grade year,” Stephens said. “His 10th grade year he was kind of in the shadows because we had talent at receiver. He was a young kid, and it was just one of those situations where he was going to have to wait and work for his opportunity.
“Going into his junior year we thought there was a chance of him having a good year (at receiver). However, we ended up playing him more on the defensive side of the ball instead of on offense. There was just a bigger need for him on the defensive side of the ball.”
A stalwart on the McEachern defense, Webb still managed to contribute 17 catches for 181 yards on offense as a junior.
But the lack of action on offense caused some hesitation on the part of college scouts when the spring and summer recruiting cycle began.
“We’re trying to sell a kid as a receiver when he hasn’t been seen much at that position,” Stephens said. “So there were reservations by college coaches. But he went to work on the track and in the weight room. He had a very good track season, and spring practice that carried over into the summer.”
And into the fall as well. Webb has become one of Georgia’s most productive receivers this season. Through the first nine games he made 61 receptions for 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns. Webb added 653 more yards on returns, including an 84-yard punt return for a score against Hillgrove.
Over the final four games of the regular season, Webb had 122 yards receiving or better in helping the Indians reach the AAAAAA playoffs. He collected a season-high 194 yards receiving on eight catches and scored three times against Milton. During those final four contests, Webb amassed 35 catches for 669 yards and eight touchdowns.
McEachern took the next step on Friday, Nov. 5, with a 33-20 win over previously unbeaten Pebblebrook for the regional title.
“He’s become a dominant receiver,” Stephens said. “He’s getting (recruiting) attention like crazy. You’re talking about a kid, and I hate to say it, went from zero to 100. He’s kind of racked them (scholarship offers) up here the last couple of months. But I think he’s solid with East Carolina because he’s appreciative of what they thought of him at the beginning.”
Webb, who is expected to enroll at ECU in January, is part of what is currently a 15-player recruiting Class of 2022 for the Pirates. He is one of two receivers, along with Brock Spalding from Lorton, VA.
ECU was at 16 verbal commitments before McDonough, GA, defensive back P.J. Simmons backed off his pledge to the Pirates on Oct. 11, according to Eagles Landing Academy coach Jonathan Gess.