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Darnay Holmes: The Calabasas cheat code

CALABASAS, Calif. -- With a never-ending grin that drives opponents mad and delights fans and a skill set that does the same, Darnay Holmes is a player that can't be tamed on the football field.

Matched up against Darnay Holmes, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian star Deommodore Lenoir was doing his best to throw the Calabasas (Calif.) five-star prospect off his game.

“It was a lot of trash talking,” Lenoir said of the matchup, before correcting himself. “Well, he just smiles. I was doing most of the trash talking, but he was just smiling. It was kind of getting under my skin when he don’t say nothing back.”

Whether on or off the field, Holmes can’t contain his wide smirk. It’s as if he knows something that you are futilely trying to figure out.

He’s the Calabasas cheat code. 

Put him on a receiver and the wideout might as well not be on the field. Get him the ball in space and watch him run circles around the defense like Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson. Kicking him the ball on kickoffs or punts is a silly endeavor not for the wise.

Holmes is a deep threat as Salesian found out on the first offensive play of the game when he caught a 66-yard touchdown. Put play off him and a receiver screen is essentially an automatic first down. One good block and it could be even more.

All the schools recruiting the No. 8 overall player in the 2017 class see him as an athlete even though he is ranked as the top cornerback in the country.

“It's definitely an athlete type of recruitment process,” Holmes said. “I'm definitely going to solidify my spot on the defensive back side. I look up to Deion Sanders, Tyrann Mathieu, but offensive side is something that I'm just smooth with right now.”

He showed that with 157 yards receiving on six receptions against Salesian. On the defensive side, the Mustangs decided to only challenge Holmes a handful of times, resulting in a couple of short gains, a pass interference and a near pick-six interception.

“That's for sure a nightmare right there, man,” Holmes said. “I don't know how to explain that. That's something that I'm not going to forget. Next time I have an interception, I'm going to for sure catch all the rest of those. For sure.”

Locals that have seen Holmes play might have notice a familiarity. Though Holmes has a thicker frame, his game is similar to USC cornerback/returner/part-time receiver Adoree' Jackson, who is somewhat of a mentor. The two 5-foot-11 corners first connected at The Opening Finals where Jackson was one of the college players brought back to coach up the latest crop of the nation’s top high school footballers.

Jackson and Holmes also work out with the same defensive backs coach. Drew Pearson was on the USC coaching staff for two years as a graduate assistant working with the secondary, but was not retained after the Holiday Bowl when new head coach Clay Helton finalized his full staff. Now he works with many of the top local talent from Jackson and Holmes to Buffalo Bills rookie cornerback Kevon Seymour and a slew of the top high school defensive backs in Southern California.

“He coaches us. We work out all the time,” Holmes said. “Adoree' teaches me up and all that. We have a great time when we work out. We always crack jokes and he always gives me life lessons and how to be a better person, a better corner and a better athlete.”

Holmes could follow Jackson to USC and potentially fill the void when Jackson likely foregoes his senior season to enter the NFL Draft after this year. He could take over the ‘Adoree’ role’ of being a defensive stopper while also moonlighting on offense for 6-10 plays per game.

“Yea, if I do choose to go there, I definitely could fill in that. Fill in his shoes. Probably expand out his shoes,” Holmes said with a chuckle. “But yea that's how it is. He wants me to be better than him. He's definitely a big brother to me.”

Before USC’s matchup with Alabama, Holmes said he was looking forward to seeing how the Trojans played against an SEC team and was expecting Jackson to have a big game. Before USC departed for Texas, Helton called to check in on Holmes. 

“Before they got on the plane, he gave me a call. He wished me good luck and I wished him good luck as they take their trip.”

Holmes visited USC in the spring for an early walkthrough practice and said he wants to get back down to USC soon to see how things are progressing for the new staff that Helton has hired, including defensive backs coach Ronnie Bradford. Holmes is primarily being recruited by Helton rather than Bradford, but he didn’t see that as a slight.

“It's more [Clay] Helton because Coach Bradford, he is just solidify his spot as a coach right now. Just getting his job done. That's how it's supposed to be. Just get through your first year, so I talk to Coach Helton most of the time.”

“I feel like [Bradford’s] a great coach. He teaches technique well and he's going to get a lot of the guys going to the league I feel like.”

One of the top prospects in the country, Holmes is obviously a very popular player amongst college coaches and recruiters. He said Ohio State, Michigan, UCLA, Washington, Arizona and USC are the schools that have recently been reaching out to him the most. He also took a trip to Nebraska over the weekend with a number of top prospects. Holmes chose to pay his own way and make the trip an unofficial visit since he’s been to Lincoln on several occasions.

“I'm not going to say I'm wasting it. It just wouldn't be a beneficial trip for my mother and I. We're going to go to a few different schools and see how it is.”

Among those potential schools Ohio State and Michigan are expected to get official visits while Arizona could also. Holmes wasn’t sure whether he would take official visits to either of the local Los Angeles schools since he can take easily take unofficials to both. 

Wherever he chooses to attend college, expect Holmes to bring a lot of game and a beguiling grin.

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