Auburn, Ala.--Coming off a season that saw him play sparingly on Auburn's front seven, sophomore Jeff Holland is looking to improve on his limited production from a year ago that saw him make just 13 tackles with one sack while seeing action in all 13 games. Having a strong spring practice, Holland should be able to provide a pass rush threat behind veteran Carl Lawson and give the Tigers another option coming off the edge this season.
One of the biggest things for Holland is finding a permanent home. Built more like a linebacker but having the skills of a pass rusher, the Jacksonville, Fla., native could take the place of Cassanova McKinzy from late in the 2015 season and see his playing time as more of a stand-up defensive end in Auburn’s scheme.
That is the strength of his game, the ability to bend off the edge and turn to corner to get to the quarterback. That addition to the defense, combined with the return of a healthy Lawson, could mean a one-two punch opposite the more traditional defensive ends like Marlon Davidson and Paul James on the other side to give the Tigers a chance to wreak havoc up front.
Best Case Scenario: Holland steps into his own and becomes another physical, big-play threat on the front four. There is no question that pass rushers are vital for a defense's success in today’s game of college football and if a guy of Holland’s athleticism becomes a premier pass rusher it could change the fortunes of Auburn’s defense for years to come.
Worst Case Scenario: Holland got very little playing time last season even with Lawson dealing with injuries so with Lawson back this season it may be tough to be get enough snaps to boost his numbers in a significant way. If the Tigers are counting on Holland to be a piece of the defensive puzzle moving forward then finding a way to get him on the field this fall would help his development in a big way.
Jeff Holland is shown at Auburn's annual A-Day game as he prepares for his sophomore season.
Career Comparison: A player who had superior pass rushing skills in a linebacker’s body, Antonio Coleman eased into the world of SEC football as a freshman with just 18 total tackles and one tackle for a loss as a freshman. After that it was all about production for Coleman the rest of his career on the Plains. With at least six sacks and 10 tackles for losses each of his final three years, with 10 sacks as a senior, Coleman’s athleticism and natural bend off the edge made him a fierce pass rusher for the Tigers.
Holland At His Best: It was his only sack of the season and his only tackle of the game, but Holland’s play in the bowl win over Memphis showed the true freshman's promise. You could see the difference in his play following the bowl practices and that continued in the spring. If he continues that progression into the fall it would be a big boost for the defense.
Quote: “A good pass rusher is a good pass rusher,” points out Kevin Steel, Auburn's new defensive coordinator when talking about Holland. “You’ve got to have speed, explosion, good use of hands, understand leverage. It does come natural to him. He’s got speed and quickness. He enjoys it. He’s creative with his stuff and really has done a nice job of it.”