BOZICH | Louisville's Holliman has NFL scouts debating his skill - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Louisville's Holliman has NFL scouts debating his skills

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – This is how relentlessly prolific Gerod Holliman was intercepting passes for the University of Louisville defense last season:

Holliman had more picks (14) than Oregon, Missouri, Oklahoma and 85 other FBS teams. What is Holliman's projection for where he will be selected in the 2015 NFL Draft next week?

"I've been hearing a lot of second round right now," Holliman said.

I hope Holliman has talked to former U of L quarterback Teddy Bridgewater about how this NFL Draft stuff works. The pre-draft reports on Holliman dance from praise to zingers.

"Doesn't tackle often – or do it very well," wrote Sports Illustrated, which ranked Holliman as the 65th best overall prospect in the draft.

"His biggest issue seems to be tackling," wrote an analyst for CSN Chicago.

Oh, boy. The critics were only starting to bring the heat. The toughest draft report was filed at NFL.com, where Holliman is projected as fourth- or fifth-round selection.

"One-year wonder … discipline needed for the position goes missing … Atrocious tackler. Would rather hit than tackle … Gives half-hearted attempt as high-to-low blitzer."

That covers everything except the way Holliman brushes his teeth. If he's concerned, Holliman does not show it.

"Everyone says I have great ball skills and ball skills are what really help me stand out among the DBs in the draft this year," Holliman said.

You know how this works. Saw it last season with Bridgewater. Had a great junior season. Had a terrible pro day. Bridgewater nearly drifted out of the first round in the 2014 draft. Finished the season as the Vikings' starting quarterback.

Saw it several years ago with former U of L defensive end Elvis Dumervil. Rolled through offensive lines for 20 ½ sacks in 2005. The NFL wise guys weren't sure that he was tall enough to excel. Dumervil slipped to the fourth round. Dumervil has played in four Pro Bowls.

If the scouts whiffed on Bridgewater and Dumervil, they projected the struggles that Brian Brohm and Mario Urrutia encountered. Questions, questions, questions. It's the scouting way. They are correct. Holliman lacks the multi-year performance chart of DeVante Parker.

It is no surprise that scouts are chirping about Holliman's tackling. What else can you question about a guy who intercepted 14 passes, including two thrown by Jameis Winston, the quarterback who could be the first pick in the draft.

Yes, he only started one season. But when Holliman was given playing time he roamed the middle of the field like Ken Griffey Jr.

It wasn't like Holliman had two or three great games. He stole a pass and took it 61 yards against Miami in Louisville's season-opening game. He didn't steal one against Murray State, but then Holliman intercepted passes in Louisville's next four games. Holliman finished last season with picks in nine of the Cardinals' 13 games.

His total – 14 – tied the Division I season record. Holliman watched the U of L spring game from the sidelines Friday night. I asked him if he believed any of the current Cardinals will exceed his record.

"I hope not," Holliman said, before laughing. "I'm rooting for those guys, but I hope that record stands."

Holliman said that he has interviewed with multiple teams. Two teams have invited him for visits at their facilities – Miami and Tampa. Being selected by the Dolphins or Buccaneers would thrill Holliman because he grew up in Florida.

Holliman said that he believes that he will be selected in the second round. Mock drafts abound. You can find Holliman in the second round – or the third, fourth or even fifth.

"I have a gut feeling on certain teams," Holliman said. "I can't just choose one. I have teams in mind that I really feel strong may pick me."

As for the tackling numbers, Holliman ranked seventh on the team with 44 hits, 34 unassisted. If tackling and pursuit are your preference, U of L strong safety James Sample should be your selection. He made 90 tackles with four interceptions. Sample could go in the second, third or fourth round, too.

But 14 interceptions are 14 interceptions. First you have to be in position to catch that many balls. Then you have to hold on to them. There's a surprise factor. It's not as if the opposing quarterback is trying to get you the football. 

Don't forget that Holliman turned his receptions into 245 yards, which translates into more yards per catch (17.5) than every Louisville receiver except Parker.

"It's a great feeling," Holliman said. "I'm ready to go."

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