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BOGACZYK: Herd's Holmes Loses More than His Hair

Jermaine Holmes

July 27, 2014



HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – When Marshall opens the 2014 preseason football camp Aug. 4, it’s a good thing middle linebacker Jermaine Holmes will be back in his familiar No. 46 jersey.

Otherwise, you might not recognize him.

Holmes gained his nickname – “Freak” – as a Valdosta (Ga.) High School freshman. Maybe he needs a new nickname now.

“Slim,” perhaps?

He laughed at the suggestion, but the Thundering Herd senior took his body toning very seriously this offseason. He played at 247 pounds last season and not long after was up to 253.

Now, he’s at 229 pounds on his 5-foot-11 frame.

He’s also shorn his familiar dreadlocks for a close-cropped haircut.

“That was a good three pounds right there,” said a laughing Holmes, whose wide smile hasn’t changed a bit. “So, that kind of helped out a lot, you know? It’s been since the seventh grade (wearing the dreadlocks), but this feels really good … Yeah, it’s part of the new ‘Freak,’ I guess.”

Holmes is one of three Herd players -- with offensive linemen Chris Jasperse and Clint Van Horn -- on the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List. It’s the national honor that basically is open to down linemen, tight ends and linebackers.

Holmes, 22, looks ready for big things this season, when he will play the Herd’s “Mike” linebacker spot with fellow senior (and fellow Georgian) Neville Hewitt. On the 2014 defense, Holmes’ 27 career starts trails only the 28 of cornerback Darryl “Swagg” Roberts.



He had 84 tackles in 14 games (10 starts) a year ago, and was an all-Conference USA second team selection by league coaches.

But Herd coaches wanted a quicker Holmes – and they’ve got one. He ate less, and better. He ran more and took his conditioning to a new level.

“I basically was trying to get right for my last year, losing 20 pounds, trying to get quicker,” Holmes said Friday after Coach Doc Holliday’s team finished official summer conditioning. “I wanted to be better in pass coverage, come out this season and finish here with a bang.

“I wanted to help my team get a conference (USA) championship. We’re serious about this … It’s kind of amazing to me how much quicker I am … I’m a senior and showing leadership is a big part of it. We have guys who have been working hard, staying after practice, getting their endurance up. All of that’s going to help us a lot, whether they know it now or not.”

Scott Sinclair, Marshall’s second-year head strength and conditioning coach, said there’s one place where Holmes has experienced no weight loss.

He remains one of the strongest players in the program. In the summer testing just concluded, the senior linebacker’s 370-pound power clean was a Herd program overall record.

“He’s done a great job,” Sinclair said. “The coaches obviously wanted him to lose weight and he’s done a great job getting to where he is. Dropping 20 pounds and keeping his strength where it was – and/or improving it – he’s made great strides.

“The record at 370, bringing the bar from the floor and catching it on your shoulders … Last year he did 365, the record was his, and he went up 5 (pounds), beat the record and dropped 20 pounds in weight. It usually doesn’t happen that way.”

Sinclair said Holmes has been one of the more impressive offseason performers among the Herd.

“Holmes is such a quiet guy that sometimes I wouldn’t say he gets lost, but he’s so quiet you don’t realize he’s there until he throws up 500 pounds in the squat, and then it’s like ‘Whoa! He’s there,’” Sinclair said. “Running-wise, he’s done a much, much better job.

“If you looked at him, he always was a pretty good-looking guy, but now his waist is tiny, his shoulders are broad and he’s running so well I think he’s going to have a good year.”

That kind of weight room prowess gave Holmes a moniker that has followed him from Valdosta to Huntington, too.

“They started calling me ‘Freak’ in the ninth grade,” said Holmes, whose 192 career tackles lead current Herd players. “I moved up to the varsity and we were lifting and my coach said, ‘Whoa, you’re pretty strong, like a freak.’ And it stuck with me ever since. The guys here picked up on it.”

Holmes has had six double-figure tackle games in a Marshall uniform, with a high of 16 in a 2012 win over Houston. His 12 in a victory over UAB shared the team single-game high last season.

Sinclair said Holmes current weight is a good playing weight on a deep MU linebacker unit.

“He was 253 at one point, and I think we want to hold him at 229,” Sinclair said. “He was going to drop a little more but we told him, no, stay at 229, 230.

“It will help him be able to move better and with his strength still as good -- still where it was or a bit better -- he’ll be fine inside the box. But I think what we wanted him to do was move a little bit better outside the box.”

Sinclair and his conditioning staff don’t time Herd players at 40 yards, but Holmes said he doesn’t need a stopwatch to know he’s much faster than the 4.76 he registered two years ago.

“I really feel a lot quicker, and I have much better endurance than I had before,” Holmes said. “This is the lightest I’ve been since the 11th grade. I played last year at 247 and the most I’ve weighed was when I first got here (summer of 2011), I was, like, 256.

“This is best I’ve felt since high school.”

And that, Herd faithful, is downright freaky.