Editor's Note: The list will feature our thoughts on the most important players for Auburn heading into the 2016 football season. We will count down 16 key Tigers for the offense and 16 for the defense as Coach Gus Malzahn's team prepares to face Clemson in the season opener.
Auburn, Ala.--One of the most experienced players on Auburn's 2016 roster, fifth-year senior Josh Holsey has had knee injuries cut short two seasons and is looking a healthy and productive finish to his college playing days.
That would be a big boost for the defense because Holsey has the ability to contribute at either cornerback or safety because of his physicality and coverage skills.
One major reason why his return could be a key for the Tigers is because of the inexperience at cornerback for this team heading into the 2016 season. Carlton Davis returns as a starter, but walk-on Mike Sherwood is the only other player with Auburn game experience returning at the position so that leaves the Tigers with questions in the secondary.
Even if Holsey isn't the right fit at cornerback for the 2016 defense his return would give the Tigers more depth at either safety or the nickel and allow either Stephen Roberts or Tim Irvin to shift back to cornerback if needed. No matter where he lines up, having Holsey back on the field and part of the rotation would help out tremendously because of his leadership and knowledge of the game.
Best Case Scenario: Holsey returning to his old form would be a big boost for a defense that has many of the pieces in place for a potential breakthrough year. One of the only spots on that side of the ball that is a concern is the cornerback spot opposite Carlton Davis. While Jamel Dean and Javaris Davis both have talent, Holsey’s experience would be very beneficial for the Tigers, especially early in the season with teams like Clemson, LSU and Texas A&M on the schedule.
Worst Case Scenario: If the knee doesn’t respond as well as Holsey and the doctors expect that would be a tough ending for a player with 20 Auburn starts who has been a ball-hawk in the secondary when healthy. Expected to be one of the top performers for the Tigers when he arrived as a highly-regarded recruit from Creekside High in Fairburn, Ga., Holsey has been forced to watch from the sidelines much more than he wants and it would be painful for him to repeat that process in his last go-around.
Josh Holsey is shown hanging out with his teammates in Birmingham last December prior to Auburn's bowl victory over Memphis.
Career Comparison: Shan Morris was another defensive back who went through multiple knee injuries for the Tigers after starting his career in a big way by playing major roles in both 1985 and 1986. Injuring his knee before the start of the 1987 season for the second time, Morris had to sit and watch that full year but came back strong in 1988 to have a memorable finish to his career. With more than 50 tackles and four interceptions as a senior, Morris recovered to play a key part in an SEC Championship. If Holsey can do the same it would be a fitting end to his playing days on the Plains.
Holsey At His Best: Holsey can do it two different ways. As a true freshman he earned a start at Ole Miss playing cornerback and had five tackles along with a pass broken up. Playing safety in 2014, Holsey earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week for his 11-tackle performance at Kansas State.
Quote: “I’ve watched film on him,” says Kevin Steele, AU's new defensive coordinator. “He has ability to play safety or cornerback. Of course, he’s coming back from an injury so we’ll have to evaluate that. He’s a very bright guy and very good in the meetings and I suspect he’ll be fine.”