Gerod Holliman was expected to replace All-American Calvin Pryor at free safety in 2014, having spent the 2013 campaign mostly serving as a gunner on special teams (16 tackles). In limited defensive snaps, he had flashed great athleticism, breaking burst off the hash, leaping and ball skills in deep coverage. No one could have predicted the record-breaking season the junior, who recently announced he was leaving school for the NFL, would have. With 14 interceptions, he tied the NCAA season mark that was first set by Al Worley of Washington in 1968.
He gained 245 yards via those thefts, the highest figure since Florida State’s Terrell Buckley recorded 238 yards running back interceptions in 1991. The Cardinal safety earned nine starts this season, breaking up three others throws as he delivered 44 tackles with three stops-for-loss. Only 23 NCAA teams (125 colleges in the FBS) had more interceptions than Holliman, who had at least one theft in nine contests.
Holliman competes for the football and plays like he owns his deep zone. An excellent high-pointer, he transitions quickly and sharply out of his pedal breaking underneath despite rarely ever displaying proper technique. He drives hard on the underneath throw and if he does jump the route and separate the football, he will with a big a collision, but he appears very disinterested as a tackler, as his penchant for making the “big play” saw him be relegated to the second unit for four games as the season progressed.
With just 37 tackles and by defending 17 passes, it is evident that Holliman plays the ball better than he does the man. He has a good feel to locate the action in front of him and is much more successful picking up receivers on underneath routes than in deep patterns.
Holliman must do a better job of staying in control (freelances too much). He can strike with good pop on contact, but does not always bring his arms to wrap and secure. He is a better high tackler in space and a low striker working in the alleys. When he locates the ball, Holliman is quick to anticipate and jump the play. All too often he is late at the hash or freezes at the Xs, showing no desire to mix it up in tight areas.
Despite Holliman’s brilliant season as a pass thief, he has scouts pining to see more, but he is nowhere near the imposing tackler that a player standing six-feet, 218 pounds should be. There is no denying that he has the combination of size, athleticism, and penchant for the big play that scouts are looking for, but his high amount of inconsistency in all other areas of his game should have teams hesitant to pull the trigger early on draft day.
Holliman is just not as instinctive when it comes to reading keys and reacting accordingly. He just not seem to be the type that is willing to get his jersey dirty and sacrifice his body to make the big hit in coverage, evident by 62 tackles in 27 games. He has yet to play with an edge when asked to step up in run support.
Holliman has an average closing burst for a safety and his ball-hawking skills appear when he breaks on the ball early, but he doesn't transition out of backpedal particularly well. There are times where he looks tight in the in the hips and isn't fluid changing directions. Most scouts also feel that the Cardinal junior is going to have a difficult time matching up in man coverage in the NFL.
Those scouts feel he can be effective covering half the field (Cover 2) but isn't the right fit to play a centerfielder-type role (Cover 3) on a regular basis. With his theft success, he does have soft and reliable hands. He times his jumps well when trying to high point the football and can snatch the ball out of the air. He just does not take sound angles to the ball and has to be more aggressive when trying to separate the ball from the receiver.
Gerod Holliman Scouting Combine measurables
6-0/218 (4.63 forty)
32-inch arm length
9 1/2-inch hands
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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