Holloman getting more comfortable

When you have been playing one position for three years and then make a move for your final year, there is an adjustment period. While DeVonte Holloman started off at spur last season he moved back to safety after two games. This year he's a full-time spur and is trying to adjust to the changes.

For the second time in as many years, DeVonte Holloman made the move from safety to spur prior to the season. Expected to be Antonio Allen's back-up last season, Holloman was moved back to safety after the second game of the season due to poor play in the secondary and Allen's exceptional play at spur. This time the transition stuck and Holloman has been the starter at spur all season.

"DeVonte's played really well," linebacker coach Kirk Botkin said. "He does his job. If you watch him, he may not have many tackles, but he's taking on two blockers so someone else can run free. He's done an excellent job. He does what he's supposed to do day in and day out. He's one of the smartest guys and he's a dang good football player."

While Botkin has given Holloman's performance praise through the first three games of the season, Holloman has been much tougher on himself. Coming in he had hoped to make the same kind of impact early on that Allen made last season. Statistically Holloman has just six tackles and one pass breakup, far less of the impact Allen made last season with the forced fumbles and interceptions.

"I'm tough on myself so if I had to give myself I grade I'd say I give myself a C," Holloman said. "I haven't done anything spectacular but I haven't done anything wrong."

If Holloman has struggled with anything, it's losing that safety mentality for a linebacker mentality. As a safety your job is normally to find the quarterback's eyes, read the pass, and attack the receiver. As a linebacker it is more about getting off blocks and finding the runner and covering in passing situations.

"It's tough because you want to be covering and getting the big hits on players coming across the middle, but it's more of finding the blocker or lineman and maybe you'll make the tackle," Holloman said. "It's a different mindset."

Holloman has also taken on the task of helping out freshman Jordan Diggs, who has stepped into the back-up role after the suspension of Sharrod Golightly prior to the season.

"He's hungry," Holloman said. "That's something you appreciate being here for four years and seeing somebody come in as hungry as you thought you were. He's grasping on every little thing and asking questions about everything. I appreciate it and I try and help him as much as I can to get him ready to play."

In return for helping, Holloman has also been aided by Diggs. Last week Diggs said that he is always approaching Holloman and asking him what to do and how to do it. Like any good student with their teacher, Diggs is watching every step Holloman takes. Holloman has to make sure he's on top of his game so he doesn't have to answer to Diggs when he messes up.

"You want to do everything right so you don't set a bad example," Holloman said. "I try to make sure I play everything right, because if I don't he'll ask me about it. It's hard to say ‘I messed up' so you're going to do everything right."

This week Carolina will see in Missouri an opponent that spreads the field out, but runs the ball just as much as they throw it. That offense is designed to spread out the defense and create one-on-one opportunities in space.

"It's going to be out in the open and spread and he's going to be out in space a lot, but he's been a back-end guy for a long time and that's what he's been doing last spring and in two-a-days," Botkin said. "He's going to have to make open field tackles, but he's capable of that."

Carolina is familiar to the spread attack this season. East Carolina played the up-tempo spread that Missouri runs, but did not run the ball as much. That has kept Holloman from being able to make big plays, but he's not as concerned about that as he is about winning.

"We've been playing a lot of spread teams so far," Holloman said. "It hasn't allowed me to do anything, but it is big team, little me. As long as the team wins and we play pretty good on defense then I'm pretty happy about it."

What the Tigers also have that Carolina has yet to see so far this year is a dual-threat quarterback in James Franklin, who is very likely to play after sustaining a shoulder injury two weeks ago in the loss to Georgia. That affects what the defensive line can do as far as stunts and slants because they have to stay in their lines to keep Franklin from bringing the ball down and running for it. Defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor also has to be careful running upfield to get around the offensive tackle because Franklin will just tuck it and run where Clowney and Taylor used to be. Holloman's job really doesn't change this week.

"I'm a pass-first player and help on the run when I can," Holloman said. "That's how it's going to be this week. We're focusing on both because they're about 50/50 run and pass so we'll be ready for whatever they bring to us."

The big news on the defensive side of the ball all week has been the suspension of D.J. Swearinger. The safety was suspended for his helmet-to-helmet hit in last week's win over UAB. Whenever that happens it has to stay in the mind of the other players to a certain extent, but Holloman says they just have to do what they've always done.

"You can't think about it," Holloman said. "You just have to go out there and play. We're all going to make a conscious effort not to make those hits and that's what we're trying to do."


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