Gerald Holmes was in the mix along with LJ Scott and Madre London for the starting running back gig heading into the start of this season.
Even though Scott has received the bulk of the carries, coach Mark Dantonio might want to reconsider where he stacks his running backs after Holmes’ stellar performance against BYU.
The Flint native made a strong case to spring his way to the top of the depth chart as he finished the day with 15 carries for 57 yards and one touchdown. He was very pleased with his first half performance.
“I feel pretty good about it but it could have been better,” Holmes said. “I pride myself on being in the game. At the end of the day, playmakers make plays.”
What makes Holmes such a lethal weapon is his versatility. Carving his way through the Cougars defense is a testament of his outstanding vision.
The junior has a appetite of bulldozing his way through whimpy tacklers, as he’s gaining tough earned yardage by constantly falling forward. Several of Holmes yards came after contact, with his 6-foot-1, 220 pound frame that allows him to shake off defenders and drag them along for extra yards.
He’s also lethal coming out of the backfield as a receiver, tallying four catches for 22 yards. Holmes has soft hands for a tailback and does a great job of recovering his balance after the catch and cutting up field.
When he’s not carrying the rock or catching the ball, Holmes is very reliable in pass protection as well by picking up the extra rusher.
But most of his positive contributions took place in the first half. He saw limited action in the second half with Dantonio trying to rotate Scott and London into the game.
“LJ is a good player and he’s been our starter,” Dantonio said. “Madre has been a good player for us too.”
It was a tale of two halves for Holmes, as he had a busy first half but was nowhere to be found in the second half. He did not shy away when asked if he was frustrated about getting fewer carries and being less involved than the first half.
“Personally, I am frustrated but I can’t go against the coach’s call,” Holmes said. “I’m an individual person and I’m playing for a big team. The main goal is to get the win.”
His big outing proves that Holmes needs to receive more touches for the rest of the season. His toughness, determination and consistency needs to be awarded with more playing time.
However, it seems like the coaching staff will stick with the three headed monster as a collective group to lead the charge.
“The coach is trying things out and we are still a developing offense,” Holmes said. “I don’t have too much say in it because at the end of the day, it’s the coach’s call.”
It’s a recipe for success if two primary ball carriers emerge for a multitude of reasons. It gives one guy on the bench a breather, while the other candidate is feeding off of his initial success with the one-two punch.
Co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner has his work cut out for him with plenty of flexibility to work with. Depending on the circumstances, he will attempt to utilize each running back’s skillset to their advantage.
For example, London might be favored as an early down back with his impressive speed and acceleration while Holmes and Scott will split reps in short yardage/red zone situations.
The opening touchdown drive against BYU reflected that Holmes is one of the biggest assets on this 2016 Spartan offense. Now the Spartans know moving forward that whenever they need a big play or a must-have third down conversion, just give the ball to old reliable number 24.