BERKELEY, Calif. -- On Friday evening, during the first seven-on-seven session of California’s full-contact weekend camp, one big cracking report grabbed the attention of coaches and players alike. That was the moment that everyone in attendance became aware of 2016 Los Gatos (Calif.) tight end Miles Beach. Several plays later, Beach went up to grab a first-down pass, came down, and powered through his defender. Two-hand touch didn’t mean much for Beach. He hadn’t hit anything in seven months.
“It’s my first hitting camp of the year, so I’m going to get a little jazzed,” he smiled.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder concluded the evening session with a leaping touchdown grab over two defenders.
Beach started Saturday with a mid-air juggling grab for 20 yards in traffic on third-and-one during morning full-team work, and showed off his physicality as a blocker. Later in the drive, Beach made a tumbling, rolling grab at the sideline for a first down.
In the afternoon, he continued, making yet another leaping catch at the sideline, and then, two plays later, made a turn-around grab on a skinny post for a 29-yard gain.
As the days wore on, Beach got better and better, having his best day on Sunday. In the first team period, following a punishing drive from his teammate -- right tackle Aaron Banks -- Beach took center stage. On third down, he caught a quick out, then made a running catch at the sideline to keep the drive going. Beach then turned in a diving, parallel-to-the-ground, full-extension catch to save an incompletion at the two-yard line. On fourth-and-goal at the two, Beach again saved a low throw, this time for a touchdown, and then turned in a two-point conversion grab.
In the second game of the day – Beach’s first on the California Memorial Stadium turf -- Beach made a snag and took a thunderous hit from an opposing linebacker, but kept his feet. Coaches and trainers came out to make sure he was alright, but he wasn’t even fazed.
Beach finished off the drive with three straight catches, making a sliding grab over the middle in traffic, tracking the ball well and going low to save an incompletion. Then, he went high, making another leaping, twisting catch around a 6-foot-3 defensive back for a first down, and followed that up with a jumping snag inside the 10.
By the end of camp, it was apparent that Beach had the best set of hands in Berkeley, with even Kenny Lawler marveling at Beach’s mitts.
Beach isn’t slow, but he’s not a burner, with a 4.85 40 time, but he’s an athletic leaper (30-inch vertical) who caught almost everything thrown his way. There were two balls in competition situations – 11-on-11 or seven-on-seven – that he got his hands on, and didn’t catch. There were at least 10 more balls that he had no right to catch, but still hauled in. The Cal coaches noticed.
“They were all saying I’m doing well, and I appreciate it, but I know I’ve got a lot more to work on,” said Beach. “Those two balls I didn’t catch, I need to catch.”
Beach had not played tackle football – at least, American football – until his freshman year of high school. He spent most of his life as a soccer goalkeeper, which explains the soft hands, the leaping, and the fact that he had more turf burn than healthy skin on his knees by Sunday, after three days of diving and sliding on the turf to save low passes.
“I’ve been playing goalkeeper since fifth grade, so I’ve been sliding a lot. I brought that into football, and it’s really helping me,” said Beach, who gave up the pitch for the gridiron after his freshman year. “I really fell in love with football.”
Beach didn’t start last year on defense – he had just nine catches for 213 yards– but he was a starter at defensive end, making 36 tackles and 2.0 sacks, with four pass deflections. Four of his catches though, came for touchdowns. He was used for a very specific purpose – as a big body who can make things happen in the red zone.
“I feel like they like my ability to jump up and get the ball, my blocking ability,” Beach said of what the Cal staff told him, in the way of feedback. “I feel pretty good about my blocking ability, and I’m not too slow for my size.”
Saturday’s team session showcased that blocking ability, with Beach driving defenders out of the way of his fellow receivers and dealing out some big hits.
The best comparison would be a slower Ray Hudson. While Beach profiles as a traditional tight end, he plays the position like a wide receiver, and in fact, he played both inside receiver and outside receiver during camp this past weekend. No matter where he is on the field, though, he makes catches.
“They like the intensity I bring, definitely,” Beach said. “I get jazzed out there, and when something good happens, I definitely like to voice it.”
Playing on the Memorial Stadium turf for his final game, and excelling, drove home the idea that Beach could possibly keep playing the sport he’s fallen in love with for a bit longer.
“That was my goal, since freshman year,” Beach said. “I wanted to play college ball. I love the sport, I love the whole spirit of it, and I would love to get into a better college than I can get into with my grades.”
As it stands, Beach has a 3.0, but is working in summer school to raise some of his past grades a bit higher, because now, he has something to shoot for.
“I’m taking some summer school right now, trying to get some of those old grades up. Next year, I’m going to put a lot more work in than I have been,” he said. “I’m not the smartest kid, but I know I can put a lot more effort into school.”