Calabasas (Calif.) five-star cornerback Darnay Holmes can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel.
For a No. 1 ranked recruit at any position, the final few weeks of recruiting can be a whirlwind affair. Holmes, who will graduate this month from high school and enroll at his college of choice in January, took two official visits last week.
Thursday and Friday, he visited UCLA. Saturday through Tuesday, he visited USC. While he scheduled a trip to Michigan this weekend, that visit is now canceled.
USC, UCLA and Ohio State appear to be the favorites for Holmes’ commitment Jan. 7 at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
His father, Darick, accompanied Darnay on each of his visits. That includes Thursday’s visit to UCLA.
“All of the visits have been great,” said Darick Holmes. “They get to spoil you, wine and dine you. You eat good and get to see everything.
“With UCLA, you know, they had a down year, but we know they have a top program. Defensive back wise, they’ve got a good system, and they’ll showcase Darnay in that defense.
“It really comes down to what Darnay wants. UCLA has some good athletes over there, but they don’t have the same level of athletes USC has. So do you want to be at USC with those great athletes or do you want to start over and bring some great athletes with you to UCLA?
“Do you want to help UCLA try and build what USC has always had? Everywhere Darnay has been, he has helped change the culture and got to the championship game. That’s something that he's fighting with.
“I personally don’t care. You can be another piece to that puzzle at USC, or a major piece to the puzzle at UCLA. To me, it’s more about what school can exhibit your abilities off the field. Both schools have great networking, so it’s a matter of what situation you want to be a part of right away.”
For more than a year UCLA has been considered the clear favorite to land Holmes’ commitment. The fact is, Holmes and his father have been around the Bruin football program more than any other.
“I don’t think I learned anything new,” said Darick. “We knew going into visiting UCLA and USC that they are both well established universities with great alumni networks. I think these visits were really more for his mom and his sister to learn about each school.”
The family would visit USC Saturday night after Calabasas’ CIF Championship game at Capistrano Valley High School. Ironically, it’s a game that would sideline Darnay with the flu. Yet, the family still made the trip to Los Angeles to spend the next 48-hours with the Trojans coaching staff.
“His mother and his sister haven’t seen USC or UCLA like Darnay and I have,” said his father. “They had a thousand questions for the coaches. (laughed)
“The cool thing about USC is that they had all hands on deck. That made him feel very welcome and he got to spend a lot of time with each coach.
“Darnay was the only recruit visiting, so it was all about him. We had a nice meeting with Clay Helton, and then meetings with other coaches on different days. We sat down with (Clancy) Pendergast, Ronnie Bradford and Tee Martin.
As a father, Darick’s biggest question for the USC coaching staff was an obvious one.
“My thing is stability,” said Holmes. “USC has been changing coaches and changing staffs a lot the past few years.
“That’s why SC was never in the picture with Darnay. I’ve tapped into some of the big alumni at the school, people who are in on coaching decisions, and they say Clay isn’t going anywhere. Everyone likes Clay, and once they made that quarterback switch, you can see they got things going in the right direction.
“I mean, if they have (Sam) Darnold as their starting quarterback at the beginning of the season, they probably end up winning two more games. The Alabama result may not have been different, but you see what they can do now. As a father, I want Darnay to have stability.
“Football wise, I know what USC brings. Academically, we know what the school is about. This was for his mom and sister. We have to come together and make this decision as a family. Truth is, I don’t think they want him to leave California.
“They didn’t go to Ohio State, so for them two, it’s going to come down to USC and UCLA. Those two trips helped USC and UCLA because they got his mom and sister excited. I can say that much.”
But did either school make a lasting impression with dad?
“Like I said, I don’t care where he goes as long as he finds a place where he can showcase his talents off the field,” said Holmes. “If you want to be Hollywood and make a name for yourself outside of football, you have to go to the school that gives you that opportunity.
“Ohio State, USC, UCLA and Michigan all have programs like that. I think all of those schools give him a chance to show that he can do more than just play football.”
USC has used one of their most recognized stars off the field to help recruit Holmes. USC junior cornerback, kick returner and part-time slot receiver Adoree Jackson has become, as Darick puts it, the blueprint for how the Trojans want to feature Darnay.
“USC feels like they have a blueprint for how to use Darnay because of what they’ve done with Adoree,” said Holmes. “Darnay would not right into that spot, which obviously benefits him.
“USC knows how to utilize him all over the field because they’ve been doing it for three years with Adoree. Other schools talk about doing the same thing, but USC has the experience of knowing how many plays he should get on offense and how to balance that with his time at other positions.”
Holmes will host Ohio State heed coach Urban Meyer and Buckeyes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano in-home Wednesday night. Saturday afternoon, USC head coach Clay Helton and company will visit with Holmes family, while UCLA head coach Jim Mora gets the final in-home visit before the recruiting dead period Saturday night.
“Yep, it’s getting close to the end now,” said his father.