Film Study: Early-enrolled Notre Dame RB CJ Holmes
RB CJ Holmes, 6-0, 196; Cheshire (Conn.) Academy.
The numbers: Holmes rushed 142 times for 1,169 yards and scored 13 touchdowns as a senior at Cheshire Academy. The Cats (8-2) finished the season with a win over Greenwich (Conn.) Brunswick in the NEPSAC Wayne Sanborn Bowl.
The rankings: Rivals – Four stars, No. 5 all-purpose back. 247Sports – Three stars, No. 40 running back.
First impression: Holmes is a playmaker out of the backfield. He has the chance to turn a handoff into a big play at any time. The Irish are adding another threat to a talented running back unit.
Strengths: Before I watched highlights of Holmes from this past season, I felt pretty confident in his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He impressed at the Irish Invasion this past summer before committing to Notre Dame. Holmes backed up that performance with a number of big plays during his senior season. As a runner, Holmes wastes little time getting up the field. He deceives defenders with his cuts enough to sprint past them when they hesitate. Holmes doesn’t get tackled easy. He manages to keep his balance while taking hits, exhibits good breakaway speed and shows a nose for the end zone.
Proof of prowess: (1:20) Holmes uses good vision on a draw play up the middle. He makes one slight cut to the right to avoid the first pack of defenders and quickly sidesteps a fast charging defensive back before pulling away for the touchdown … (2:32) Holmes plunges into the middle of the line and appears to be gobbled up, but he emerges from the mess with a defender hanging onto him. He keeps his feet moving, bounces to the outside to set up a block by his receiver and finds the end zone … (5:10) Holmes doesn’t take the preferred route to the goal line, but he manages to brush off one defender, sidestep another and escape on the outside to score.
Competition level: Prep schools in New England aren’t known for annually producing a lot of college football prospects, but Holmes played on one of the most talented teams in the area. Cheshire Academy had five seniors, including Holmes, rated as three-star recruits or higher by Rivals. The Cats played against two highly-ranked prep school teams in Connecticut (Choate Rosemary Hall) and Massachusetts (Lawrence Academy). As a defensive back, Holmes intercepted a pass thrown by Brunswick School quarterback Nick Henkel, a three-star recruit in the 2018 class.
Left to prove: What should be good news for Notre Dame could also be a question mark for Holmes. Averaging only 14 carries per game, it remains to be seen how Holmes will hold up to the demands of being a workhorse running back. Of course the Irish haven’t always relied on one specific running back that much in recent years either. The concerns for Holmes are mostly related to taking the bruising given to running backs between the tackles, and if he can become a reliable back in short-yardage situations. If he’s as adept as a receiver that I think he is, Holmes may be able to find a role in Notre Dame’s offense early in his career.