+Enough awareness to stay at center
+Smart enough to be the “quarterback” of an O-line (read defenses, call line audibles, etc.)
+Phenomenal pass blocker
+Great awareness of pass plays
+Plays with respectable on field intensity
+Gets into position quickly
+Good body control
+Great on screens
+Excellent at sustaining blocks
-Average awareness as a run blocker
-Inconsistent run blocker
-Not a great athlete
-Will miss some defenders at the second level
-Doesn’t always get a great initial punch
-Doesn’t create a wide base
I like USC center Khaled Holmes. I think he is the best center in this draft class (don’t think Barrett Jones will play center in the NFL). I think he has a chance of being a late first round prospect. He’s a bit inconsistent, but, overall, I like what I have seen from him.
Holmes has solid measurables. He has above average height for a center at 6’3, above average bulk at 310lbs, and solid speed with a 5.17 40 yard dash. He also can afford to stay at that weight because he is extremely flexible for a 310lb player, a must have for a center.
Holmes has solid, albeit inconsistent, on field awareness. The football IQ needed of a team’s center is extremely underrated; on most teams, centers act as quarterbacks of the offensive line. They read defenses (that’s why they have their head up before the snap) and make line audibles after reading the defense (slide protection, etc.), and they need to be able to recognize and pick up blitzes. This is something Holmes does very well on pass plays. It’s always advised that offensive linemen “keep their head on a swivel” when they aren’t engaged with a defender just so they can pick up blitzes and find guys to block. As a center, Holmes has his head on a swivel pre-play (and during the play), and almost never fails to pick up blitzes (Matt Barkley was sacked 8 times last year, in large part because Holmes always made sure no defender was ever left unblocked). However, as a run blocker, he had regarding on field awareness. More than anything, as I’ve said before, centers need to make audibles for the linemen. They need to make adjustments after reading the defense. However, on run plays, centers rarely have to make line calls. The play call usually has each linemen either blocking a specific player, pulling, or entering the second level when the ball is snapped. Holmes doesn’t make many line calls on run plays. That’s normal, but Holmes needs to learn to at least pretend to be making adjustments on run plays. On pass plays, he literally has his head on a swivel before the play even starts. On run plays, he takes a cursory glance at the defense and then waits for Barkley to tell him to snap the ball. The problem is that it is easy to tell what kind of play USC is calling simply by looking at Holmes’s head. If he appears to be reading the defense, it’s a pass. If not, it’s a run. He’s must eliminate that tendency. Also, on run plays, when entering the second level, he doesn’t have a good sense of who to block, and he takes mediocre angles to defenders on run plays. Holmes has spectacular awareness on pass plays, but mediocre awareness on run plays. His awareness of pass plays is good enough for him to stay at center in the NFL.
Holmes is an average athlete. When I watch linemen enter the second level on run plays, I constantly see them showcase athleticism and impressive top speed, but they often miss blocks because they pretty much run right past defenders. It’s the equivalent of defenders over-pursuing the ball carrier. They run right past them. I desperately want to see many of these athletic linemen stop moving before hitting a guy and really square up so they can engage into a block. Holmes is not one of these really athletic linemen, but he has the body control necessary to make sure he doesn’t over-pursue defenders when entering the second level. He’ll miss some blocks entering the second level, largely because he has mediocre on field awareness when he is in the second level, but his good body control and his effort to make sure that he stops moving and squares up against defenders in the second level make up for his mediocre speed and awareness. He also has solid lateral agility (not that centers really need it), and he is quick enough to get his body into position quickly after the snap. Overall, Holmes is an average athlete, but he is smart with his body.
I think Holmes has good strength. I’m not entirely sure. I saw him three times (Oregon, Utah, Stanford), and, against Oregon and Utah, he showcased terrific strength (wasn’t completely embarrassed by Star Lotulelei, so that’s pretty good), but, against Stanford, he wasn’t able to drive defenders off the ball on run plays like he was able to in the other games. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a minor injury in the game, but he does have long arms, and he has very consistent strength on pass plays. Against Oregon and Utah, he looked extremely strong, but he wasn’t able to move defenders like he did in those games against Stanford. Probably a fluke, but, overall, I’ll say he has good strength.
Holmes is a phenomenal pass blocker. Again, he has phenomenal awareness, and, honestly, in every USC game I’ve seen in the past two weeks (3 games on my TiVo), I haven’t seen a single defender left unblocked on a pass play. Not one. That tells you how good he is at reading blitz schemes. It’s the center’s job to make sure the blitz is always picked up. He does his job very well. He also gets great leverage as a pass blocker (really flexible in both his knees and his waist), he knows how to use his long arms to his advantage (there aren’t a lot of centers who are 6’3, and his arms are built proportionally), and he showcases good strength as a pass blocker. There aren’t a lot of things Holmes does wrong on pass plays.
Holmes is a good run blocker. He has solid strength, he gets solid leverage, he’s a natural with the double team, and he plays with solid on field intensity. However, he doesn’t always get a great initial punch, which occasionally means he struggles to drive defenders off the ball, and he will allow defenders to make arm tackles in traffic. Holmes is a respectable, albeit unspectacular run blocker.
Ultimately, I like Holmes. I think his on field awareness really sets him apart as a pass blocker, and I think his ability to recognize blitz schemes and make sure defenders are never left unblocked will be a huge asset in the pass happy blitz happy NFL. I think he’ll be a good player, but the stuff he does with line audibles will never be properly appreciated in the NFL. His intelligence makes the players around him better.
NFL Comparison: Alex Mack. Like Mack, Holmes’s abilities to read blitz schemes and make line calls make the players around him better, something you’ve gotta love.
Grade: 90 (worthy of a late first to early second round pick)
Projection: 84 (will be a mid second, possibly late second round pick)