Holloman ready for roles of starter, leader

Sophomore starting strong safety is sure to be in the spolight more this season

03/27/2010 12:00 AM

03/27/2010 12:14 AM

There are nights after a long practice or scrimmage when Shane Beamer's cell phone vibrates, and the USC assistant coach sees DeVonte Holloman's name pop up.

The strong safety, in little danger of losing his starting spot, still will be worried about a mistake he had made.

Beamer, who has received such calls from Holloman as late as 11:15 p.m., smiles and shakes his head.

"Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself that he's still a freshman and that he's only been here a year," Beamer said of Holloman. "He's not your typical first-year college guy, or second-year college guy."

South Pointe High is becoming known for producing players who head to USC and draw raves early on from Gamecocks coaches. Last year it was cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who had praise heaped upon him by Steve Spurrier before the cornerback had played a game at USC.

Gilmore had a productive freshman season. So did Holloman, to less acclaim.

This season the spotlight should shine brighter on Holloman. Beamer said he is "firmly entrenched" as the starter at strong safety.

Like Gilmore, Holloman almost shies from attention. He wouldn't mind staying in the background.

"I'm not ready for it. But (I'm) getting ready for it," he said about gaining more recognition. "I've got a lot more work to do before I can start thinking about stuff like that."

Those are the kind of comments a coach loves to hear.

"He's just steady, day in and day out, he's dependable on and off the field," Beamer said. "He takes care of business. He's accountable. He carries himself like a fifth-year senior, and that's what I love about him."

Holloman played in 13 games last season, either at strong safety or in nickel or dime packages. He started twice, when starting strong safety Darian Stewart was shifted to spur.

Holloman's biggest moment came in the Clemson game, when he returned an interception 54 yards to set up a touchdown. He finished the season with 30 tackles.

Part of Holloman's dependability stems from his knowledge of his position. He was a strong safety at South Pointe, where he and Gilmore helped the team to an undefeated season and the state title in their senior season. He also played the position as a junior at Independence High in Charlotte.

Holloman is content that the strong safety is a less glorious positionthan free safety, where a player is more likely to make big-time hits and highlight-reel plays.

"That's the hard part. Strong safety, you've got a little bit more run responsibility. Free safety, you're just kind of worried about the pass," Holloman said. "With my size, I guess the strong (safety position) is a little bit better spot for me. Plus, I like to do both - hit and cover."

It helped last year that, like Gilmore, Holloman enrolled a semester early. In his second spring practice, he is being asked to take a leadership role.

"I came in early expecting to play. So when I got in there, I just tried to learn and make a couple plays," Holloman said. "I learned from Stewart as much as I could and did what I could on the field."

And that was enough for his coaches. Still, because of Holloman's high standards for himself, Beamer should expect more of those late-night calls and messages.

"It's important to him," Beamer said. "It's important to everybody - but it's really important to him."

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