South Carolina LB could help 'Boys

The Dallas Cowboys have had some success in the past with defensive players who moved positions. Safety Darren Woodson was a linebacker at Arizona State before enjoying a long, standout career in the Dallas secondary.

Linebacker Dexter Coakley grew up playing safety before moving up to linebacker, eventually playing 10 years in the NFL (eight with the Cowboys) and making the Pro Bowl three times.

It would be premature to suggest that the Cowboys' sixth-round pick, South Carolina linebacker DeVonte Holloman, can match the careers of Woodson and Coakley, but there are similarities. Holloman, now 6-foot-1 and 243 pounds, played strong safety when he first joined the Gamecocks, but was moved to the "Spur" (a linebacker/safety hybrid) position in the USC defense for his senior year.

Holloman started every game at his new position as a senior, collecting 57 tackles, sacking opposing quarterbacks twice and picking off three passes, which raised his career total of interceptions to seven (three of which he picked off in games against in-state rival Clemson). Over his career, he played in 51 games, starting 35, and racked up 27 tackles.

Holloman grew up in Charlotte, N.C. as a fan of the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles, specifically safety Brian Dawkins. A late starter in football (he played primarily basketball through junior high school), Holloman is a stronger, versatile defender who can be deployed in a number of ways, depending on the defensive scheme. His speed, strength and long arms made him one of the Gamecocks' best tacklers, and he can deliver violent hits.

He is shorter than a lot of linebackers, but has long arms for a player of his size, and those long, strong arms allow him to shed blockers with surprising effectiveness, and he showed impressive ability when blitzing, especially for a player who spent most of his football life in the secondary. He also shows his background as a defensive back when catching the ball, snatching the ball with his arms extended, rather than waiting to let it hit his body.

How Dallas will use Holloman is not yet clear, but with the team converting from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer will be moving — on either a part-time or full-time basis — to defensive end, meaning the Cowboys need outside linebackers who can run. Based on the way he was used at South Carolina, he might well be a SAM (strongside) linebacker, and will be asked to contribute on special teams, as well.

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