Autry Denson called four-star running back signee C.J. Holmes “as complete of a player” as he’s recruited at Notre Dame.
The Irish running backs coach was impressed with the 6-foot, 200-pound Cheshire (Conn.) Academy at last year’s Irish Invasion summer camp in South Bend.
“Anytime you can get a guy that complete with that skill set and also has that work ethic, he’s a slam dunk,” Denson said.
Holmes, the No. 2 player in Connecticut in the class of 2017, is one of a handful of players likely to see the field as a freshman. Though head coach Brian Kelly said he’d like to redshirt more players than the Irish did in 2016 — 13 of 24 freshmen played last year — Holmes will be tough to keep on the sideline.
“We’re going to ask him to compete right away,” Kelly said. “He’s going to be one of the guys that we’re going to force feed him a little bit and get him involved.”
Versatility was the No. 1 trait that stood out to Denson when asked about Holmes on National Signing Day.
“It’s invaluable,” Denson said of the versatility. “We want those kind of guys. As you see offenses evolving and continue to go spread, it’s about creating mismatches. If you can leave a running back on the field, they have to leave a certain amount of linebackers on the field, so when you can go from that running back having that ability to be in the backfield to being split out, somebody’s going to get a mismatch.
“It’s invaluable to have guys that can create mismatches and can go out and execute at a high level when put in different situations.”
Denson compared Holmes to former Irish receiver/running back C.J. Prosise, a third-round pick by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2016 NFL Draft. Prosise began his career as a receiver before moving to running back as a senior, using his versatility to impact the game in several areas.
“I would say C.J. is very much like C.J. Prosise from the standpoint of his versatility to be able to play multiple positions,” Denson said. “They’re similar in build. I see him in very much that same light.”
At Irish Invasion, Holmes was among the players that participated in workouts rather than just stand on the sideline.
It gave Denson an opportunity to learn more about Holmes’ game.
“You want to get as much as you can, as much bang for your buck, and that guy can do everything,” Denson said. “He can play receiver, he can play running back. The ability to work with him, there’s nothing like having the ability to work with him hands on myself.
“When he came to Irish Invasion, I had a chance to coach him the way that I would coach him. I got a chance to see how he would respond and really get to know him. That really elevated his stock in my eyes the way he responded to every situation I was able to put him in.”