Holmes touches down at Penn State

It’s hard to imagine anyone who is 6-foot-6 and tips the scales at 327 pounds getting overlooked.

That’s exactly what happened to Des Holmes, however.

“A lot of people didn’t know about him,” Cardinal O’Hara High School football coach B.J. Hogan said.

That all changed when Hogan and his staff put out a video highlight reel of Holmes just playing defense, showing the big man, as a junior, running down presumably much quicker ballcarriers deep in the backfield with relative ease. Then, at the beginning of May, Holmes made a trip to the Nike Football The Opening New Jersey Regional combine at the New York Jets’ training facility in Florham.

“I made it to the final five (on the offensive line),” Holmes said. “I didn’t make it to the main Opening camp in Oregon, but I still made it to the top five at my position.”

Holmes wasn’t flying under the radar anymore. Central Florida offered the next day as a nose guard. Temple, Syracuse and Maryland followed suit a week later, then Colorado State and Pitt.

That led to a trip in mid-July to Penn State’s camp. On July 28, Holmes’ birthday, the Nittany Lions became the 16th college to offer him a scholarship, and, on Sunday afternoon, he became the 14th member of Penn State’s 2017 recruiting class.

“I knew around midday during my (second) visit,” said Holmes, who returned to University Park on Saturday, of his decision to commit to the Lions. “I was down to Penn State and Maryland. I already had a feeling for Penn State, though. It was amazingly comfortable there. I’d say I knew halfway through the day (that’s where I wanted to go). I didn’t commit right then, though. I wanted to go home and talk to my family and coaches first.”

Holmes said he came away very impressed with Lion head coach James Franklin and offensive line coach Matt Limegrover. Franklin’s pitch of excellence on and off the field and what a Penn State education could mean down the road particularly resonated with him. The Lions began to show interest in June.

During his visits, Homes got to meet a few of his future teammates. He also worked out with fellow Lion recruits like Robert Martin, Dion Barber and Yetur Matos.

“I could already feel a bond,” Holmes said.

Holmes’ father was a basketball player, but Holmes had a cousin who played football at Auburn and an uncle who played football at Maryland-Eastern Shore and had a pro tryout. Holmes himself only plays football now, but he used to play basketball, as well.

“I started playing (football) in seventh grade,” Holmes said. “My dad got me into it. He just saw how big I was getting and thought I might be good at it.”

With Holmes’ commitment, Penn State appears to be done recruiting linemen in this class. Martin, Pittsburgh Central Catholic’s C.J. Thorpe and Ohio’s Mike Miranda had come on board earlier.

“Holmes gets off the line of scrimmage quickly and he gets to the second level well. He plays with a nasty streak and when he engages a defensive player, it is hard for the defensive player to shake loose,” Scout.com’s Brian Dohn said. “He needs to work on his flexibility, which will increase his balance and his ability to play with a lower pad level and get under defensive players. He can get away with playing high on high school because of the competition and the physical advantage he possesses. Holmes has good lower body strength. He needs to be more accurate and stronger with his initial punch. He drive blocks well and he has the athleticism to engage a defensive player, and then turn him away from the hole quickly and allow the running back to get through. In pass protection, Holmes has to improve/develop a much better kick step so he can handle the edge.”

Admittedly, it might take a few years for Holmes to get to get on the field. He’ll have to refine the points of his blocking that Dohn pointed out, and he’ll also have to resculpt his body, redistributing his weight.

However, if he can do that, the potential is there to become something special. Penn State sees the qualities of a future left tackle.

“You can see how well he moves,” Hogan said. “He has good feet, a good reach, and he’s young for his class.”