Corey Holmes got the word from Brian Kelly last August.
His sophomore season would be a wash. Holmes would red shirt.
“It was hard at the time but I just looked at it as a year to get bigger, faster, stronger to work on my game,” Holmes said. “And kind of took it as a blessing in disguise, because it really humbled me. It was a really humbling experience all last year.
“I just kept telling myself it was happening for a reason. That’s really what I felt. Maybe this is what I needed to raise my level of play.”
It’s too early to tell if that actually worked, but Holmes came through a solid spring where he’s in the running to start at slot receiver. The receivers who kept him off the field last year are virtually all gone too in Will Fuller, Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle. It’s not clear if Corey Robinson will be back either.
Basically, Holmes couldn’t ask for a better opportunity going into his junior year after two seasons idling on the bench.
The former four-star recruit is next in Irish Illustrated’s A-to-Z series.
Meet Notre Dame’s new starting slot receiver.
After working on the outside to open spring practice, Holmes moved to the slot following hip surgery to C.J. Sanders and gave a solid account of himself. If Sanders doesn’t make a full recovery by August (or Notre Dame wants him to focus more on the return game), this job goes to Holmes. Kelly has been optimistic the junior is ready to translate his speed – a program-reported 4.39 in the 40-yard dash last winter – to the field.
Last year slot receivers Amir Carlisle and Torii Hunter Jr. combined for 60 catches, 711 yards and three touchdowns. With Hunter shifted to the outside Notre Dame must replace all that production. Holmes can be a big part of it after watching the past two seasons.
Holmes flashes in spring but misfires in fall with C.J. Sanders taking over at slot receiver following off-season rehab. Still, even in a scenario where Holmes isn’t a starter it’s hard to imagine him not getting serious work on a weekly basis. But if Holmes can’t beat out a younger player for a starting job it’s hard to see a path to a Notre Dame career that’s more than a role player. Regardless, the Irish lack quality depth at receiver entering the season so it’s hard to imagine a worst-case scenario for Holmes being all that bad. He’ll play. It’s just a matter of how much.
We’re contractually obligated to mention Justin Brent, right? Because until spring practice this year Kelly felt compelled to go that route even if Holmes and Brent no longer play the same position. Ask about one, get an answer about both. It’s hard to find receivers who took red-shirts as sophomores or played in just two games their first two years. Finding a receiver who red-shirted <I>at all</I> is difficult. Adrian Jarrell took a medical during his junior year. DaVaris Daniels sat out his freshman year. But both were already contributing as sophomores. Holmes was not. This career arc is trending toward the unique.
Development Vs. Recruiting Ranking
A consensus four-star prospect across the recruiting landscape, Holmes skied as high as No. 94 overall in the country on ESPN, which slotted him at No. 13 among wide outs. Scout (No. 200/No. 38 WR), 247 (No. 278/No. 43 WR) and Rivals (No. 224/No. 29 WR) were more the rule. As for Holmes’ production vs. his ranking, two years and one red-shirt don’t back up a four-star claim. Holmes needs a breakout season to make good on his high school hype from St. Thomas Aquinas. He’ll get that opportunity.
Holmes At His Best
TBD. He’s played in just two career games. There’s no inventory to parse.
Quote To Note
“Playing fast, playing with confidence. I think he’s gaining the confidence. We’re seeing, definitely, a different football player. He’s not Will Fuller speed yet, certainly although he runs at the same speed, he’s not playing at that speed yet. He’s capable. He’s certainly not there yet but he’s moving and trending in the right direction.” – Kelly during spring practice