Holmes Not Hampered by Change of Scenery

The transition from junior college to Division 1 football has been well-documented in the past. The knock is that it takes former juco standouts several months to adjust to the different level, especially in a league like the Southeastern Conference. Fortunately for Mississippi State, the change of scenery hasn't hampered the progress of junior defensive end Jimmy Holmes.

Although quiet during preseason practice, Holmes has been a steady contributor for State's defensive line. In the Bulldogs' first six games, Holmes led all linemen with 16 tackles, which includes 3.5 tackles for losses and two sacks.

Holmes has found the knack of making big plays in his initial tour of the SEC, noted by his two fumble recoveries and one fumble forced. So what was his secret?

"I just came in, stay focused on what I had to do and remained positive with everything," said Jimmie Holmes. "I didn't want to hear the negative stuff and bad things that I could not make it at this level and how different it would be. I just stayed positive."

Holmes started getting adjusted to this level when he was played at Mississippi Delta Community College. And a lot of help came from a former Bulldog fullback.

"No doubt the tempo and size and strength of the other guys is different," said Holmes. "But junior college did prep me for this level. Plus, my coach was Rod Gibson, who played at State, and he told me what to expect and showed me how to get ready. In junior college, guys are very hungry and doing whatever they can to reach the next level. They are always looking for an advantage."

Holmes continued to listen to valuable advice once he joined his new Bulldog teammates. And who better to learn from that one of the top defensive ends in the SEC?

"Titus (Brown) is just a good guy," said Holmes. "He shows me what I am doing wrong and how to do everything better. I have already learned a lot from Titus."

Holmes exited the juco ranks as one of the top linemen in the Magnolia State. However, once he arrived in Starkville, the Aiken, S.C., native knew he was no longer the most talented player on defense, but he still wanted the coaches and other players to know he could contribute on the field.

"When you get here, you don't want guys thinking you are not capable of being the top guy or holding your own," said Holmes. "You want to show right away that you can perform and that also pushes you harder to show you can do it."

At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Holmes is looking to bulk up his weight as he does battle with offensive lines in the SEC. But he doesn't want to add too much weight and moved closer to the middle of the line.

"With my size and speed, I believe I will stay at defensive end," said Holmes. "And that's okay with me. I like being on the edge and using my speed on the pass rush. I think that is where I help the team the most."

And adding Holmes to State's two-deep roster this fall has only provided much-needed depth at the end positions.

"The depth helps out so much," said Holmes. "It helps to keep fresh legs on the field and for guys to go all out on every play. We can rotate anybody on the line and it benefits the whole team. Now in the fourth quarter we know somebody will be playing with fresh legs and ready to get to the backfield."

And in the past few years, State has searched for depth in the trenches. So far in 2007, that depth has helped the Bulldog notch a pair of fourth-quarter rallies, something that has been missing.

"I think the competition on the defensive line is the best thing going on the defensive level," Holmes noted. "We all came in and competed at once and pushed each other. We all helped push the line to play at another level."

While the Bulldogs' 4-2 start may have caught some experts by surprise, Holmes figured as much before State even kicked off the 2007 campaign.

Although he was the new kid on the block in August, Holmes saw a determined attitude from the Bulldogs. Guys wanted to work hard and actually had fun working hard in the offseason.

"There was no doubt in my mind," said Holmes. "We all came in the summer and started working hard then. I could see the attitude was right then for us to have a good season. Everybody wanted to get better and make everybody else better."

Holmes and the Bulldogs return to the field on Saturday against 25th-ranked Tennessee.

And for Holmes and his D-line mates, it's another challenge against a solid ground attack from a SEC foe.

The Bulldogs have not surrendered a 100-yard rusher since Steve Slaton of West Virginia did the deed last October.

"We have a lot of goals set on defense and one of them is to not allow a single guy to get 100 yards," said Holmes. "We take a lot of pride in stopping the run and we want to be the best at it. We know that our defensive line can dictate every game and we thrive on having that responsibility."

Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. He can be reached by email at pdjmsu@yahoo.com.

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