April 30, 2014
Josh Holsey could play cornerback or safety or both in the 2014 season
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – On Oct. 17 of last year, as Auburn’s football team ran the final play of practice in preparation for a trip to Texas A&M, safety Josh Holsey looked at his left knee and knew something was wrong.
“My kneecap was kind of twisted,” Holsey says. “I was like ‘I don’t think that’s supposed to happen.’”
And just like that, on a Thursday, a day when there was no contact and seemingly little chance of injury, Holsey saw his sophomore season end. He underwent major knee surgery days later.
“It was a freak thing,” Holsey says. “I just planted wrong, and it gave out on me.”
Thus began the biggest challenge of Holsey’s athletic career. He’d won a starting job as a true freshman in 2012, moved to safety in 2013 and won a starting job there. He was an important part of a team that was picking up speed in its run to the BCS Championship Game.
“Oh, it was tough,” Holsey says. “It was probably one of the toughest things I’ve been through in my life – knowing I couldn’t play and knowing we were going to have a great season. It took all my teammates and my family members to help me through it.”
The rehabilitation process continues. Holsey did not participate in contact drills during spring practice, but he says he’ll be ready to go full-speed long before practice begins in August.
“I’m getting there,” Holsey says. “It’s a lot better than it was five months ago. If we had a game Saturday, I could play. I’ll be full tilt come August.”
The road back has not been easy. Holsey credits David Walsh, the rehabilitation manager in Auburn’s sports medicine department, with showing him the way.
“They put me through a lot of different things,” Holsey says. “Dave is a great trainer. After about two weeks, I knew I was going to be able to come back and get right. It’s really all mental. You have to have the right mindset to come in every day and get better. It’s really painful sometimes, but in the end I knew it was going to pay off.”
On the field, Holsey’s team was surging toward a Southeastern Conference championship.
“It was hard because I couldn’t be out there,” Holsey says. “I knew I had to step up and start helping whoever was going to play. I had to take on kind of a coaching role. That’s what I did.”
The question now is whether Holsey will be a safety or a cornerback next season. If Derrick Moncrief hangs on as a starting safety, Holsey could be the boundary cornerback. Senior Jonathon Mincy could move back to the field cornerback position he played last season. If Holsey stays at safety, Mincy will play the boundary corner and Jonathan Jones and Trovon Reed will likely compete at the field corner.
“I’m concerned about Jones being able to stay healthy through the entire season,” defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson says. “My first thought is to move Mincy to the field and put Holsey at the boundary corner where he was last spring. Moncrief really was a bright spot, but can he be the starter with no proven guy behind him or rotating with him? Then you say maybe we ought to keep Holsey where he is. I don’t know.”
Holsey, at 5-foot-11 and 192 pounds, has the physical attributes to play the boundary corner, where the game is more physical, or safety. He says he knows both positions and could even play both in the same game.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Holsey says. “I could play safety one down, corner the next down and keep flip-flopping the whole game. It’s natural now. Playing safety in high school probably helped me out. Being at safety is comfortable to me. My freshman year I played corner, so that’s comfortable to me too.”
Holsey says that, regardless of where he plays, Auburn’s defense will be different than it was when he was injured.
“It’s a big difference once you are in a system for a whole year,” Holsey says. “Calls we didn’t make last year, we are making now. I feel like we are light years ahead of where we were.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: