When you think of the Georgia pipeline that has so bountifully blessed Stanford football the last few years, you might think of the running backs - J.R. Lemon and Jason Evans surely were preeminent finds for the Cardinal coaches. Or perhaps defensive ends, with the highly acclaimed Julian Jenkins and Emmanuel Awofadeju in back-to-back classes. But by the numbers, the position group that has received the biggest boon in the much publicized "Atlanta West" connection has been the offensive line, with the addition of Jeff Edwards, Matt McClernan and Amir Malyery the past two classes. And with a continued focused on the big nasties up front in the 2004 class, we bring you Hamilton "Hambone" Holliday.
This 6'4" 275-pound lineman was one of the premier standout players in all of Cobb County last year, regardless of class. As a junior, he was named by the Marietta Daily Journal first team All-Cobb County in December. Soon thereafter, his blue-chip status was confirmed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who named him first team All-Area. The only other junior on offense to be named to that All-Cobb first team was Kennesaw Mountain's Jeremy Ciulla, another well-known name in this nascent 2004 recruiting class.
Holliday's improvement as the season progressed was an important catalyst for his Walton's team success, as they rattled off eight straight wins after their season-opening loss to McEachern in the Georgia Dome. Holliday was graded by the Walton coaches in the mid-70's on his blocking assignments early in the year, but he bumped that up into the 80's and topped out at 90% and 91% as the season matured. "I didn't play all that great in the first few games," he admits. "But then I got better and better. I was just more comfortable through more practices and more plays in games. I felt like I actually knew what to do by the middle of the season. The first few game situations really teach you a lot."
Holliday played out at offensive tackle for Walton and was their best run-blocker on the strong side. He also did a standout job in pass protection, allowing just one sack the entire season. But he is not one to rest on his laurels, working tirelessly this off-season for an even bigger senior campaign. "Like they always say, I need to get bigger, faster and stronger. All I can do is just keep working hard. There's an emphasis on getting quicker with my feet, but I'm getting stronger, too. Another part of is just going to be getting more comfortable with the people around you," he describes. He also adds that he thinks he can safely add another 10 pounds to his frame without losing his mobility. Holliday currently benches 360 pounds and squats 430, with a max power clean of 275 pounds.
With an 1160 SAT already under his belt (just retook on May 3) and an unweighted 3.89 GPA (4.0 with honors), Holliday is a no-brainer for Stanford's recruiting radar in this class. The Cardinal coaches did a good job pulling in linemen the past two years, but they are still fighting to bring in numbers and talent to compensate for the horrific job of OL recruiting that preceded them. After Stanford's pair of senior tackles graduate this coming year, the entire O-line will be constituted by these two classes plus 2001 signee Brian Head. Stanford fans might think it time to let up the gas pedal, but the coaching staff still has it nailed to the floor and could bring in has many as four more offensive linemen in this small 2004 class.
Holliday indeed says that Stanford has been recruiting him pretty hard to date, and stand out as one of his favorite schools. "I like Stanford because of their academics and athletics," he proclaims. "And I'd love to go to a school with great academics, where the coaches and teachers all work together cooperatively. Stanford is also attractive because I could put myself into an environment I'm not used to - California. That's kind of appealing." In addition to the Cardinal, Holliday names his favorite school list to include Auburn, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, North Carolina and Duke.
The Marietta junior has already taken a whole host of visits, to boot, which puts him into an advantaged position relative to most of his classmates in the recruiting process. He has taken unofficial looks at Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest and Florida. Many of those transpired during the season, checking out games and campuses on Saturdays, but the trips to Auburn, Georgia and Florida just took place during his spring break.
If you are wondering about the Alabama schools on his list, you should know that the Holliday family used to live right next door to Auburn, and "Hambone" says that he like the atmosphere there. His mother went to Alabama and his uncle played for the Tide as well, which he admits creates a little pressure for him. One school that ought to be on his list of favorites, given his location and predilection for a strong academic offering, is Georgia Tech. But the Walton lineman says he has them crossed off for now given that "they're just right down the road." Georgia's campus in Athens, though, is just far enough away for him, and he notes that he likes the coaching staff.
The one school farthest from his home, and the one school on his list of favorites he has yet to visit, is Stanford. That will be remedied in June as the Cardinal recruit takes a trip out West with his family for some vacation time to the San Francisco Bay Area. "I have this image that it's like a different country out there," he describes. "I picture everyone walking around in shorts in their bare feet, having a good time and making good grades." That's not an inaccurate vision for someone who has never been to California, much less the famed Stanford campus, though his timing might put him at The Farm just after spring quarter finals conclude and the vast majority of students check out for the summer.
Holliday says that he wants to get the Stanford visit under his belt to put all of his favorites on a level playing field, then rethink his universe of college favorites. In an idea world, he says he would like to decide early and get the recruiting process concluded before the start of his senior season. But he is open to elongating his search if it's the smart thing for him to do.
Outside of football, this model student-athlete is involved in a breadth of academic and community service activities. He is a member of the National Honor Society, Walton's Facilities Foundation Student Board, the Student Leadership Association and volunteers with the Special Olympics.
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