Home Local Sports Student of the Game: Hood gaining ground as part of UNC’s offense

Student of the Game: Hood gaining ground as part of UNC’s offense

Richmond County native Caleb Hood (4) carries the ball during UNC's win over Duke University last Saturday. (Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics/Andy Mead)

CHAPEL HILL — A highlight reel toe-tap touchdown reception by Caleb Hood during last Saturday’s University of North Carolina football game was flashy for the cameras, but a direct result of a lot of extra work put in away from the crowds.

A sophomore running back for the Tar Heels, and a former standout quarterback for the Richmond Raiders, Hood has seen his stock rise over the last month.

Named the starter in each of UNC’s last three games, Hood continues to emerge as an offensive weapon out of the Tar Heels’ backfield. 

The 5-11, 225-pound Rockingham native has helped fill the void left in the running game when British Brooks suffered a season-ending knee injury. 

A student of the game, Hood attributes his recent success to spending hours in the film room and sharpening his knowledge and understanding of the sport. 

“It’s been going great,” Hood said of his second season at UNC. “I’m continuing to get into the playbook and learn how to be a better college football player. And I’m always ready to learn whatever I can so I can help the team.

“I’ve really tried to get better at pass protection this year,” he added. “Now I understand that role a lot better and it’s something I’ve really worked on. If I’m able to make sure I can do that in games, I’m able to play more and give our offense a chance to score.”

UNC is on a three-game winning streak and sits atop the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division standings. The starting running back in those three games, Hood has put up some of the best numbers of his young career. 

With the responsibility of being the No. 1 option out of the backfield, Hood hasn’t let the extra weight add any pressure to how he prepares for games. He also understands that it’s a team effort when it comes to being successful on Saturdays.

“It’s been a fun experience and I enjoy being in this role,” Hood explained. “It’s not a one-person thing, so all of us (running backs) have been competing every day to be the best we can. It’s a lot of fun to work with the guys.

“Being the starter, it doesn’t change how I prepare. I know I still have to work hard to do my job.”

Over the last three games, Hood has collected 154 rushing yards on 30 carries (5.13 yards per carry). He’s also been instrumental in the passing game, hauling in 10 total catches for 82 yards, including the touchdown against Duke University.

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After not catching a pass during his freshman season, Hood has 12 grabs this year for 116 yards (9.67 yards per catch). 

As part of a 27-24 win over the University of Miami on Oct. 8, Hood registered career-highs in carries (13), receiving yards (50), total yards (124) and marked the first of two straight games of catching a career-high 5 passes.

Following the win in Miami, Hood was tabbed the “offensive player of the game” by the Tar Heels.

During UNC’s thrilling 63-61 win over Appalachian State University on Sept. 3, which saw him play against former high school teammate Dalton Stroman, Hood broke loose for a career-high 87 rushing yards. 

The longest run of his career came in that game, a 71-yard burst, that nearly resulted in a touchdown.

Last Saturday, with the Tar Heels trailing the Blue Devils 21-10, Hood caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Drake Maye with 13 seconds left on the clock in the first half. 

Rolling out to his right, Hood caught the pass just inside the right front pylon while shielding a defender. The touchdown, which was the first this season for Hood, started a 21-point scoring run by UNC that led to a 38-35 win.

“It’s been cool to become a bigger part of the passing game,” Hood said. “Drake and I worked a lot together in the offseason, and the work that also I put in with J.J. (Jones) is starting to pay off.

“It’s definitely fun to get some catches in games. I love this team and whatever I need to do to help the team, if that means catching passes or pass protection, I’ll do it.”

UNC (6-1, 3-0 ACC Coastal) has five games left in the regular season. The Tar Heels are on a bye this week and return with a home game against the University of Pittsburgh (4-2, 1-1 ACC Coastal) on Oct. 29.

Trying to win the team’s first Coastal Division title since 2015, Hood said the goal each week remains the same.

“We’re going to take the season one game at a time and try to go 1-0 every week,” Hood, a communications major, closed. “As a team, we have some big goals we want to accomplish, and we can do that if we focus and win each week.”

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Kyle Pillar is a 16-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.