Irish A-to-Z: C.J. Holmes

Shoulder surgery truncated his spring practice efforts. Now it’s his return to the weight room that will likely determine playing time or a redshirt campaign this fall.

  • National Ranking: A consensus four-star prospect, Holmes’ highest ranking among the services was offered by at No. 155 overall. He was likewise listed among the Top 300 recruits for 2017 by ESPN, Rivals, and 24/7. 
  • Irish Illustrated Rank: Holmes placed No. 6 overall among our staff rankings in February with a low ranking of No. 12.
  • Position(s): RB, KR
  • Likelihood of Freshman Redshirt: High


Holmes’ early assimilation to the program as a January enrollee provided a leg up – but his late March shoulder surgery doubtless set him back.

Barring two injuries to the four players ahead of him on the depth chart, Holmes is unlikely to be needed as a scrimmage player this fall. That leaves kick return duties and competition with junior C.J. Sanders.

Can he beat out the incumbent? Probably not.

Can his speed aid the Irish coverage teams? He’ll get a chance to prove himself in that regard as coordinator Brian Polian looks for more speed and, it must be reiterated, the desire for greatness from a special teams group that failed last fall after a quality all-around season in 2015.

Realistically, Holmes has the athleticism to help an Irish team that is “all in” for 2017, but his shoulder surgery and resulting time missed in the weight room could delay his first field appearance until 2018.


The ideal complement to lead runner Tony Jones, Jr. – lightning to Jones’ thunder – as the two progress through the program.

Holmes can fill myriad roles including lead kick returner, 1A/1B at running back, and with his ability to split out, as a top pass-catching threat out of the backfield for future Irish squads. It might not be until 2019 that he becomes such consistent impact performer, but the rookie speedster will doubtless receive opportunities.

At first blush, the redshirt-freshman Jones seems the more complete ‘back, but the daily Irish media had little chance to see Holmes perform prior to his spring shoulder injury and to be fair, he was about two weeks into his practice career at the time.

The guess here is that Jones is Notre Dame’s top running back sooner than Holmes – and it’s relevant to note both Josh Adams and Dexter Williams will likely be on the roster as seniors in 2018.


Ranked as an “Athlete” rather than running back, Holmes’ No. 155 overall ranking (per exiting the prep ranks is higher than current Irish running backs Tony Jones (No. 187 in 2016) and Josh Adams (199 in ‘15) but lower than was Dexter Williams (114 in ‘15).

In terms of comparative skill sets and size entering college, an apt comparison for Holmes is 2009 freshman Cierre Wood (both 6’0” and in the 205-pound range as rookies). Much to his chagrin, Wood redshirted as a true freshman for Charlie Weis’ final Irish squad. 

Wood led Notre Dame in rushing yards in both 2010 and 2011, the first former freshman redshirt to thereafter lead any Irish squad in that regard. 


“In some situations you see (his athleticism) because we run those plays a lot of times. In other situations, he’s thinking. And I mess with him because he looks like a robot on some plays. Once he gets the majority of the offense down and he can just cut it loose, he’ll do things even we didn’t know he could do.” – Running backs coach Autry Denson on Holmes prior to his shoulder injury Top Stories