For some athletes, seeing a daunting task ahead might send them in a different direction – perhaps down an easier path.
But when Christian Holmes elected to leave Missouri as a graduate transfer, he looked at the pass-happy offenses of the Big 12 as a great obstacle for himself to prove his skills.
And that’s part of his reasoning for landing at Oklahoma State.
“I think my mind was made up when I wanted to prove to myself to get more tape of my ability. The ball is thrown a lot in the Big 12,” Holmes told the media prior to the season. ““… It is crazy to see the ball thrown around. This is the most I’ve seen the ball thrown around since I probably put on a helmet. It’s crazy and it’s fun. It’s the way every corner dreams to do.”
But there are a lot of defenses in the Big 12 that could have easily benefited from having an experience cornerback added to its roster.
At Missouri, Holmes recorded 64 tackles and two interceptions in the previous two seasons before heading to Stillwater. So he could have contributed to any secondary in the Big 12
But it was Oklahoma State’s recent success on the field that made it all that more appealing than any other football program.
“I came here thinking about what I was doing at Missouri, I loved it there, but around here, the past, I don’t know how many years, you guys have been to a bowl game,” said Holmes, who played against the Cowboys in the 2018 Liberty Bowl. “I wanted to be a part of a winning team and take the next step with this team.”
However, he was still coming into a program that had some experience in the defensive backfield.
Having returning starter Rodarius Williams and former starting safety Jarrick Bernard-Converse move down to cornerback, did deter the former Tiger cornerback from trying his hand with the Cowboy program.
“Probably just talking about depth in the Big 12, where you got tempo, you’ve got a lot of guys going, going, going on offense. So really depth,” Holmes said of not worrying about his place among the incumbents. “I just knew with my ability I could compete with any receiver in my eyes. I think that the team here we have guys obviously on defense with a lot of depth where I feel like I can contribute in any way possible. Whether that be special teams or anything. I just feel like I can contribute somehow.”
Perhaps his biggest contribution has been from the experience standpoint.
While he has served as a backup to Williams and Bernard-Converse, the coaching staff saw him making an impact in the huddle and the position meetings even back during fall camp.
“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 very successful at this level,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said prior to the season. “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 our team. Very few times can we have a young man come in our culture and earn the respect of the players based on his work ethic and leadership skills in a short period of time.”
According to his teammates, he’s also brought a bit of an edge to the Oklahoma State secondary.
“He brought some experience from Missouri and he’s just been getting better every day,” Bernard-Converse said. “He brought a lot of juice to the secondary, he’s been keeping us active and he’s just been getting better and making us better, too.”
In his first two games with the Cowboys he’s recorded six tackles – including one for a loss – and appears to have made the adjustment to the new defense scheme he’s had to learn under defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
“Not complicated, but there’s time where I have my brain farts,” Holmes said of the scheme in August. “But everybody around me, they help me out with the different motions, the different names we call things. It’s really the same – play man. Anything other than that, I think I’m catching up on it pretty well. A lot of the guys here are helping me out.”
Follow News Press sports editor Jason Elmquist on Twitter @jelmquistSW for updates on Oklahoma State football.