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Holmes Earning Rave Reviews, OSU Enters Season with Three Quality Corners

Gundy is high on Holmes’ leadership this early into his Cowboy career.



[Photo via Bruce Waterfield, Oklahoma State Athletics]

A.J. Green was the Cowboys best NFL prospect from 2019, and in 2020, the Cowboys replaced him with two guys.

Enter Christian Holmes, a transfer from Missouri, and Jarrick Bernard-Converse, a starting safety for the Cowboys the past two seasons who transitioned to corner. Those two join longtime starter Rodarius Williams at a position group that recovered nicely from sending Green to the Cleveland Browns.

It also provides a question as who the two starters from those three will be. The most likely is Williams, leaving Holmes and Bernard-Converse competing for one spot, but OSU coach Mike Gundy said it isn’t that clear-cut.

“Our ones and twos split reps on defense,” Gundy said on Monday. “We get so many reps in a game that if you have a legitimate two-deep going into a game, the ones might play 50 snaps and the twos might play 35. The way that defensive football is played here at Oklahoma State, those guys need a break. They coach each other. They challenge each other. They continue to work to develop each other. Sure, a guy may want to be the starter, but they get so many reps in practices and now in games that it works as an advantage for us more than a disadvantage.”

When the world found out about Bernard-Converse’s move from safety to corner this past spring, it seemed unlikely a two-year starter would switch positions to be a depth piece at corner, but Holmes has apparently impressed many since arriving in Stillwater.

The journey to OSU hasn’t been the most traditional for Holmes, though. A member of the 2016 recruiting class, Holmes headed west from his hometown of Atlanta to join Missouri. He chose the Tigers over initial offers from Cincinnati, Memphis, Kent State, Georgia State, South Alabama and Troy.

After playing in 10 games as a true freshman, Holmes redshirted in 2017 after suffering a shoulder injury in fall camp that required surgery. He returned and started 12 games during the next two seasons, recording 65 tackles and 16 pass breakups in that time.

“He brings a lot of experience, game day reps, but more importantly, he’s a perfect example of a young man that understands what it takes to be successful at this level,” Gundy said. “He’s very mature. He’s very intelligent. He knows what his goals are. He wants the team to win, but he also wants to play this game for a number of years.

“His work ethic throughout the summer, his verbal leadership and also leadership on the field has been fantastic for out team. Very few times can we have a young man come into our culture and earn the respect of the players based on his work ethic and leadership skills in a short period of time, and Christian has been able to do that. He’s one of those young men that understands that things don’t always go the way you want them. Sometimes you have to be willing to work with others, but he continues to be able to have a great work ethic and great attitude, and he’s been a tremendous addition to our team up to this point.”

No matter who starts and who closes, it’s clearly going to be competitive, which is what you want (and need) at defensive back in the Big 12. OSU defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has coached 26 games as the Cowboys’ DC, and Bernard-Converse has started 22 of them and played in all 26.

As a true freshman out of Louisiana in 2018, Bernard-Converse started in nine games as a safety and finished the year with 59 tackles (fifth on the team), 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception.

He had 54 tackles as a sophomore last season, adding another two tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and another interception.

“[Bernard-Converse and Holmes] are quality players, quality individuals, football guys,” Knowles said. “We’re gonna be fine. I’m thrilled with the way it’s going. A.J. is a significant loss, yet to be able to replace him with a guy who has two years worth of starts and bring in a transfer who is everything you would ever want in a kid in terms of his ability and his focus and his wanting to be a part of the team, I feel great about the position.”

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