From the first play to the last, C.J. Holmes C.J. Holmes flashes an unmistakable trait on the offensive side of the football with pigskin in hand.
Flat-out, genuine, pure speed.
Holmes cuts a corner and chews up ground with ease, pulling away from every player on the Connecticut prep fields for Cheshire Academy. It’s a level of speed that will translate well to the college game.
Listed at 6-foot-0, 190 pounds, it’s doubtful that Notre Dame’s most recent/14th verbal commitment – as declared by Holmes in a video released Friday during his participation in The Opening in Beaverton, Oregon – possesses that size at the present time. He looks smaller than that.
But it’s not a major factor if Holmes is an inch shorter and a few pounds lighter. It doesn’t change the fact that Holmes is a difference-maker on the football field. Notre Dame envisions a C.J. Prosise-like athlete who can line up at running back, in the slot, out wide or wherever they would like to accentuate him and get the football to him in space. He fits the criteria. He has the tools.
What makes Holmes so unique is that if you wanted/needed a glue-tight cornerback on your team, Holmes would be an outstanding prospect on defense too.
Holmes admitted that he came close to pulling the trigger on a commitment to the Irish during the Irish Invasion at Notre Dame the third week of June. He resisted the temptation, which was probably a good thing as he ultimately narrowed his list down to, in alphabetical order: Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse, Tennessee and UCLA.
Holmes recently listed a top four and excluded Notre Dame, but the Irish were the apple of his eye all along, as they are for Cheshire Academy four-star wide receiver Tarik Black, who is not expected to make an announcement of his decision until the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
So how exactly will Holmes help the Irish? There are multiple ways in which he can be utilized, which was one of Notre Dame’s selling points to Scout’s No. 15 athlete and No. 203 overall prospect.
When Notre Dame likens Holmes’ role to that of Prosise, keep in mind that he’s a long way from Prosise’s 220 pounds as a red-shirt junior season with the Irish. Prosise ran away from defenders en route to 1,032 yards rushing and a 6.6-yard average in ’15. But Holmes shows a consistent knack of squeezing his way out of tackles and running out of the grasp of defenders, which should only improve as he adds college muscle.
There’s quite a bit of east-west mixed in with Holmes’ north-south game. He keeps a constant eye on the cutback lanes and can make defending him a nightmare with his against-the-grain paths. This is where Holmes becomes particularly dangerous because he puts defenders in a stop-and-start mode, which is more than enough time for him to clip the edge, and then it’s off to the races.
Holmes is a natural receiver. He seamlessly goes from running full-tilt to bounding into the air, timing the arrival of the football, and securing the football. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but Holmes flashes run-by-you speed a la Will Fuller, whose two-year window at Notre Dame in 2014-15 was a constant torching of defensive backs.
Holmes puts immediate pressure on a cornerback with his decisive take-off speed. When he runs a deep post, you better be ready from the outset or it’s an easy six points.
And yet Holmes is not afraid to lower a shoulder to take on a would-be tackler, nor is he bashful when it comes to dishing out contact from the defensive secondary.
Holmes is explosive out of his backpedal and makes up ground on a stop route in a hurry. His hip turn is seamless, and the same high-pointing ability he shows as a receiver benefits him in pass defense.
Just as he can run by cornerbacks on offense, he can run with any receiver on defense. He adds bonus points by flashing the ability to turn and make a play on the football while running stride-for-stride with the receiver. Holmes truly is a dynamic prospect on both sides of the football.
There are aspects of Holmes’ game that need fine-tuning. He overly relies on a spin move in traffic to extricate himself from a crowd. He’ll need to learn how to break down, widen his base, and make a cut right or left off that widened base. If/when he learns that, he’ll be even more lethal.
Spin moves occasionally are very productive; spin moves as a staple will lead to direct hits out of the spin, and thus, fumbles and car-wreck hits. He also has a tendency to swing his arm with the football as opposed to pinning/securing it against his chest.
But the college game is about weapons, and just as C.J. Prosise was a great weapon for the Irish, so, too, can C.J. Holmes be, particularly once he adds bulk to his frame and diversifies the way he can beat an opponent.
Don’t expect Holmes to ever be as big as Prosise. Prosise is a real rarity: a 220-pound breakaway back. But Holmes will give the dash the Irish offense needs, and if Tarik Black chooses Notre Dame over UCLA, Michigan, Stanford and Alabama – which could happen as the high school teammates have talked about – the Irish will have a double-dose of Cheshire Academy to spice up the offensive attack.
C.J. Holmes is better than the 203rd player in the country, and his senior season with the Fighting Cats will serve as proof. This is a verbal commitment for Irish fans truly to be excited about.