Posted: 5:56 pm Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Seminole Ridge speedster Gary Holmes waits for his breakthrough 

By Jeff Greer

His speed and quickness made him one of the most feared backs in Palm Beach County last fall, when he ran for 1,445 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Gary Holmes (Rivals.com)

Gary Holmes (Rivals.com)

He ran the second-fastest time at the 2011 Under Armour Combine in Orlando (4.43) and then improved on that time at the Miami Under Armour Combine, blazing through 40 yards in 4.39 seconds.

Yet this spring, Seminole Ridge running back Gary Holmes is still waiting for his first Division I-A scholarship offer. His only offer so far came from Bryant University, a Rhode Island-based Football Championship Series program in the Northeast Conference.

A major reason for the lack of big-time offers is his frame — Holmes is 5-8, 175 pounds. The other reasons are a product of Seminole Ridge’s offense. The Hawks use Holmes as a wing back in their wing-T offense, meaning he’s often used as an outside runner off the edge or as a decoy. He doesn’t catch a lot of passes — he had one reception in 2010 — and he rarely needs to protect his quarterback with his blocking because Seminole Ridge isn’t a passing team.

“A coach from Louisville, he worried about me blocking a (defensive end), like 225, 230 (pounds) off the edge,” Holmes said after practice Wednesday. “I have to get some more highlights of me blocking and catching passes, I guess.”

But the positives overwhelm the slight negatives affecting Holmes’s recruitment. His speed, field vision and cutback ability are among the best in a 2012 Palm Beach County class stacked with good running backs. He’s the top-rated back in the area on the preseason Big Board. He makes cuts without losing speed and his breakaway speed gets him huge chunks of yards after he breaks into the second level of the defense.

Any mention of his name last fall prompted gushing reviews from opposing coaches and players. When Park Vista beat Seminole Ridge 28-24 thanks to Auburn signee Tre Mason’s 312 rushing yards and four touchdowns, Holmes showed he could run with the area’s best. Holmes had 148 yards and two touchdowns of his own.

“Oh yeah, he’s got that speed,” Mason said when asked if Holmes reminded him of him. “Speed kills.”

Wisconsin, UCF and USF all told Holmes they’d send a coach to watch him at a spring practice. LSU, a school that has been in constant contact with Holmes, has been in the area recently but has yet to stop by. Western Kentucky, Bowling Green and Navy have already been by to visit Holmes, but those schools, much like many of the Division I-AA schools like Bryant who are interested in Holmes, are afraid to offer him a scholarship.

“Everybody who comes in is interested in Gary,” Seminole Ridge coach Matt Dickmann said. “But nobody’s offered yet. A Division I-AA school has, but others don’t think they’ll be able to touch him. I say, ‘If you like him, offer him. Then he’ll make that decision.’ That’s what’s funny: Everybody always wants to ask who’s offered already.”

Holmes in action against Atlantic. (Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post)

Holmes in action against Atlantic. (Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post)

It’s the same recruiting Catch-22 that kept Seminole Ridge fullback Tyler Butler from being heavily chased last fall, despite a brutish running style, versatility (he played linebacker, too) and a standout academic record. Butler ended up at Colgate, and Holmes is hoping he can find the right fit for him, too.

The speed demon really likes the closest BCS program to Palm Beach County, and the new coaching staff led by Al Golden has made quite the impression on both Holmes and Dickmann.

“(Golden) is a real go-getter,” Dickmann said. “He rolls up his sleeves and goes to work.”

Holmes visited Miami for its spring game, and the coaches invited him back down for the Hurricanes’ summer camp. Miami has also stopped by Seminole Ridge to pay a visit. None of that has gone unnoticed by Holmes.

“I can fit in their offense,” Holmes said when asked which school was his favorite so far. “I really feel like I can contribute to their team.”

Rivals.com lists 17 BCS programs other than Miami that are interested in Seminole Ridge’s diminutive back, including Mason’s Auburn. Now Holmes has a chance this spring and summer to attract even more attention and make his ultimate breakthrough: a big-time scholarship offer.

“It’s all about that first offer,” Dickmann said. “One comes, and the rest follow.”