This points to real progress by the smallest and fastest Bulldog back on the 2014 roster. Not that Holloway never had to body-up with an opponent before of course. Working as a wide receiver last season he did have blocking duty downfield. But that was against defensive backs.
Now that Holloway operates as a running back the challenges are literally bigger. Lots bigger. But Holloway knew this was part of the deal when Coach Dan Mullen changed his positioning. Or re-changed it rather since in high school Holloway was a back first and route-runner second. And really, he gets to do both now because the Mississippi State offense is scheming ways to break the backs out in the open first, then toss them the ball.
It is a gameplan Holloway was made for…as long as he can meet the less-glamorous and more-dangerous demands of throwing himself into a linebacker, a rush-end, even gasp! a defensive tackle. It’s much to ask of a 160-pounder, but… “I’ve definitely stepped up a lot since in the spring,” he says.
What is the focus for the running backs at this stage of camp? “I think mainly just making sure we know our protections and knowing why we do certain protections and certain calls or run certain plays and things like that. I think that’s the main focus, knowing why you’re doing your job.”
“It’s been tough. This camp is made to be tough. But we’ve been doing really well. The running backs have been catching on to everything pretty quickly.”
Who has surprised you? “I think Aeris Williams has surprised me some. Dontavian Lee just as much, he’s a hard runner too. They’ve gotten a lot smarter, they caught onto it faster than when I first got here. So I like that.”
How do you complement the other backs? “I think the fact just because we have such a variety of running backs; bigger, medium-sized, smaller, faster, slower. I think it just gives the defense a different look every time we get in the game. I think that helps a lot.”
This is your second practice session as a running back, with the spring. How have you managed the transition? “I don’t think it was hard. I think I’m pretty smart when it comes to football and I can catch onto things pretty quickly. Learning the plays wasn’t very hard. It was just getting accustomed to being there 100%.”
In spring you ran a lot of sweeps and reverses, are you running inside more now? “Yeah, I run every play every other running back runs. Size doesn’t really make a difference, we’re all here for the same thing.”
So defenses can’t predict what you’re doing by the size or speed of the back who is in? “No, no, we’re all doing all the plays.”
How have you held up to the hits? “Good, good. Like my Dad says, the size never matters. It’s all about your heart.so when I get in there I don’t see size, I see the same people I go to war with every day. Since I was a little kid playing I’ve always been the smallest, so it’s nothing new to me.”
Have you changed your body for running back? “Yeah, I’ve gained more weight. But I feel my mindset has always been the same. So I’ve never been focused on if I’m weighing enough, weighing a little bit. My mindset is always the same, I’m going to go out there to make the plays.”
What do you weigh? “I’m 160 right now.”
You were 4.3 at wide receiver, what is your speed like now? “Oh it’s the same. Speed stays the same.”
Dak Prescott said passing to the running backs will be a bigger part this year, have you seen that? “Definitely. We’ve been working more with the running backs catching the ball with the receivers in the same play, with the quarterbacks. I think that’s going to be a big help to have more receiving running backs.”
What is your mindset when you see a linebacker matched up on you? “I mean pad level beats everybody. I don’t care how big you are, how fast you are, pad level beats everything. So whoever lowest man is he’s going to win. If he still tackles me or not I’m still getting extra yards.”
Speed should be where your advantage going on a route? “I mean I know it’s a disadvantage (for them). But it’s the SEC so linebackers can run, too. So it’s all about your technique and doing what you’ve been taught.”
Who is the hardest linebacker to out-run? “Ahhhh, I’d have to say Matt Wells is probably the fastest linebacker. He’s probably the fastest linebacker in the SEC!”
What have you learned about Dak working with him in a different position? “I’ve definitely gotten to see how smart he really is and how much he knows about the offense. At wide receiver you get to see a lot of it, but at running back you get to see the protections and all the checks and everything. You get to see how much he really has on his plate and how much he can handle.”
”That’s what we practice in the off-season, is quarterbacks stepping up and being the leaders as well as everybody else.”