ANDERSON, Ind. -- It’s not a glamorous position. It’s not one that often gets praise; more so it gets criticized when there’s a mistake. But for the Indianapolis Colts, it’s one that will be heavily scrutinized until the position is solidified.
Their run with Samson Satele at center ended in March, and now they’re going with unproven NFL player at the position.
Look at Khaled Holmes' college resume and it screams promise. He started 37 games while at USC. Look at his NFL resume and it screams risk. Holmes played a total of 12 snaps as a rookie last season.
Now he’s responsible for making sure he blocks well, the offensive line is on the same page, and there’s a clean exchange between him and franchise quarterback Andrew Luck.
“I think as long as you approach it, look at the small things and the details of it, you don’t get lost in the big picture and having too much pressure put on yourself because that’s going to be there for everyone and every position,” Holmes said. “As long as you’re focused on the details and technique and what you have to do every day, it works out.”
There was no official announcement that Holmes would be the starter. But it became clear after Satele was released and general manager Ryan Grigson elected to sign Phil Costa, who was beaten out by a rookie in Dallas, instead of attempt to spend top dollars to make a run at Cleveland restricted free agent Alex Mack.
Grigson stood by the decision to go with Holmes while talking to ESPN.com and a reporter from the Indianapolis Star during the league meetings in Orlando, Florida, in late March and again during a press conference at the conclusion of the draft in early May.
The questions about Holmes’ ability to hold down the starting position are legitimate after he only played 12 snaps last season despite the problems the Colts had at center.
“There was really no necessity to, to be honest with you,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “We never, even though we had shuffled that line and we had seven or eight different lineups throughout the course of the season, it really was no need at the center spot. With having Samson (Satele) available, Mike (McGlynn) going in and getting snaps and having a veteran guy.”
Holmes and Luck spent extra time working out together, and Holmes passed up vacation time to be with other centers around the league at LeCharles Bentley’s O-Line Performance facility for four weeks in the offseason. Holmes has a 35-inch wing span, which is considered great size for a center.
“He’s a smart guy, he’s a tough guy,” Pagano said. “He understands football, he gets football, he loves football. He’s a gym rat type guy, but he’s got to play. You’ve got to get a helmet strapped on, you’ve got to get in the shoulder pads and he’s got to see live action. Then I’ll be able to tell you more once that happens.”
Holmes is no longer the bright-eyed rookie, roaming around training camp in a walking boot trying to grasp things from the sidelines because an ankle injury caused him to miss most of camp last year. Holmes will only be judged by the job he does on the field. He’s still rough around the edges and is being pushed by others at the position, but he’s playing with confidence and has turned the heads of some of his teammates because of the way he’s taken command of the line of scrimmage. The Colts have four players, including Donald Thomas and rookie Jack Mewhort, on their training camp roster who can play center.
“He’s a completely different guy from last year,” left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. “He’s got a lot more fight and tenacity to him. He’s showing a lot of confidence, which is really good out of your center. I think what’s really good is that he knows what he’s doing on every play. So he can go out and do it on full speed.”