Auburn, Ala.--Josh Holsey had to watch from the sidelines last season as his Auburn Tigers completed their run to the SEC football title.
“It tore me apart,” he said when talking about missing half of the 2013 schedule after getting off to an impressive start.
“I felt real down for a good week and a half or two knowing I wouldn’t be able to finish out the season, but as the season went on I was just happy to be with my teammates and watch them do the things we did and finish season how we did.”
On Tuesday, for the first time since being injured in practice prior to the 2013 Texas A&M game, he made a tackle as Auburn put on full pads after working in shorts the previous four sessions.
“I feel like I am back to my old self,” he said. “I just have got to make sure I am careful and don’t do anything crazy before the season starts.”
Josh Holsey is shown in action as a safety last season.
Holsey was impressive as a true freshman cornerback in 2012. Last year he made the move to safety because of a shortage of players at those spots and performed very well. As a junior he is back to cornerback and has a good chance to earn a starting spot by the time the Tigers open the season vs. Arkansas.
“I did a little tackling drill just to get back in it,” he said of Tuesday’s practice. “I still have a little jitters in there and had to get them out of my system. I did a little tackling today and it felt good. It was my first time since last year to be in a tackling drill. It felt good to be out there.”
Holsey said he enjoyed the first preseason practice in full pads. “It was good for the team. We have been in shells. I think everybody gets excited, especially the defense, because the offense maybe feels like they are running us when we just have on shorts and stuff. I think it is great for us to get in pads and get a little contact going on and get ready for tomorrow and the heavy practice.”
Asked what the keys were to making a strong comeback from knee surgery, he said, “I was in rehab almost like two or three times a day sometimes. Just staying dedicated. It was a long process. I knew it was going to take a long time to get back to where I needed to be.”
Holsey noted that having the “right mindset” was also a big factor in his recovery. “Being on the sidelines is really boring,” he said. “I had to make sure I got back sooner than later.”
The junior said he sees a lot of potential for the 2014 defense. “We have a lot of starters coming back and a lot of vets who have been in the system. I see a great defense in the making. All we have to do is keep the right mindset and just keep coming to practice every day to work hard and we are going to have one of the best defenses in the country.”
Another defender, Montravius Adams, said he has high expectations for the group. The tackle said the Auburn defense is getting no respect.
“I really don’t like that,” he said. “I look at ESPN every day and when they mention Auburn all they talk about is the offense even though we had Dee Ford. They still just don’t mention the defense.
“That’s why I really think we’re working so hard this year on the defense and the defensive line, linebackers, everybody. It’s just kind of disrespectful not to mention the defense because we’re out there working, too. We’re playing and we’re helping win.”
One of the keys to success for the Tigers will be improving the pass rush despite the loss of Ford, who led the team in sacks and quarterback hurries.
“In my opinion, I really think we’re going to be better than last year in pass rush, even though Carl (Lawson) is out, but when he comes back I know he’s going to contribute,” Adams said of the injured defensive end. “We are still going to be good.
“We are out there working and we have got the best coach we can get in Coach G (Rodney Garner),” Adams said. “With that guy, as long as we keep working and doing what he says to do, we’re going to be good either way.”
One of the seniors the Tigers are counting on to have more production this year in the pass rush is defensive tackle Angelo Blackson.
“My biggest thing is just getting after that passer, learning how to keep two moves in my head and a counter,” said Blackson, who noted that he has dropped weight to 309 pounds in an effort to improve his quickness.
Last season Blackson played in all 14 games for the SEC champions, who finished with a 12-2 record. He started four of those games and finished with 16 tackles and just one sack.
“I think it is really technique,” he said when asked what he needs to improve to be more effective at getting to the quarterback. “I have the speed. I just have to work my hands to get after the passer.”
Angelo Blackson has been a contributor since his freshman season.
The senior noted that he likes what he has seen from the freshmen and transfers from junior college on the front four. “We have a lot of young talent,” he said. “The young guys really bring the depth to the team, another style to the team. They are coming in, they are young, athletic long guys. I think we just need to bring them along.”
The Tigers will return to the practice field for their first morning workout on Wednesday as they have two practices on the schedule.
News and Notes:
*Senior tight end/fullback Brandon Fulse said he is seeing progress from sophomore quarterback Jeremy Johnson, who is expected to start the opener vs. Arkansas due to a disciplinary issue with Nick Marshall.
“Jeremy Johnson has come a long way from his freshman year,” Fulse said. “Most freshmen are immature, just kind of lolly-gagging, but now he’s stepped up. He’s a leader. He’s taking the game more serious now and I see that.
“Jeremy Johnson will be a leader now and when Nick leaves and he carries this team,” Fulse added. “First game, any time you put him in, we have 100 percent (faith) that Jeremy Johnson will get the job done”
Marshall is expected to play in the opener vs. the Razorbacks, but Coach Gus Malzahn and Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee have not said when they plan to put the senior into the contest.
*Sophomore receiver Marcus Davis agrees with Fulse about the quarterbacks. “I definitely think we’re making progress,” he said. “I feel like Nick and Jeremy and all the other quarterbacks are more comfortable with offense. I feel like everything is going really smooth and we’re completing passes and moving fast.”
Freshman defensive end Raashed Kennion is shown at Monday’s practice. Kennion was a football and basketball standout last season at First Coast High in Jacksonville, Fla.
*The Tigers experimented in spring training with using Avery Young at right guard, the position he is currently playing with Chad Slade moving to left guard to fill in for injured Alex Kozan, who is out for the entire season with a back injury.
Lashlee noted right guard is an assignment Young should be able to handle after starting at right tackle last year as a redshirt freshman. “At guard you pull more and pass protections are different because you are in more of a confined space instead of on an island, but at the same time, I know from talking with J.B. (offensive line coach J.B. Grimes), we feel like it is easier to move from tackle to guard as opposed to guard out to tackle,” Lashlee said.
The coach added, “He’s such an athletic kid--all the pulling and running and screens, all those things we do--Avery is that guy on our O-line that could probably play all five spots from an ability standpoint. Now it’s just a matter of building up those reps for him at right guard and working with Pat (Miller) and Reese (Dismukes) and all these guys”
*Redshirt junior left guard Devonte Danzey got a chance on Wednesday to work with the ones with Chad Slade being held out of practice. “We have been pleased with his progress,” Lashlee said. “I think he is healthy. I think he has really matured. I think he is really taking coaching well and we are hoping he will continue to take that next step and be that guy we can count if somebody goes down to be that next guy in.”
*Another backup offensive guard, Jordan Diamond, missed spring training with an injury. He is competing at right guard behind Young. “It is good to have him out there,” said Lashlee, who added that the coaches have been pleasantly surprised with how well Diamond has performed after a long layoff. “He is competing with Will Adams over there,” the coach added.