July 12, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
The play unfolded just like it had in practice, and freshman Auburn cornerback Josh Holsey, making his first start, knew what was about to happen. Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson’s pass was going to throw him the ball.
As Wilson threw, Holsey made his break. With nothing but open field in front of him, the ball hit him in the hands. And he dropped it.
“When it came, I had already pictured the celebration,” Holsey says, laughing. “I forgot I had left the ball behind. It was going to be a pick six. About 40 yards. I saw it and got way too happy.”
In 12 games last season, Auburn’s secondary intercepted just one pass. And that one didn’t mean a lot. Safety Trent Fisher’s interception and 60-yard return was the final touchdown in a 51-7 win over Alabama A&M.
“There will be a lot of interceptions this season,” Holsey says. “I am convinced of that.”
So is junior cornerback Jonathon Mincy.
“That’s something I take very personally,” Mincy says. “I know I had many opportunities to intercept the ball and didn’t come through. That’s something I’ve been working on, and there is definitely going to be a change this season.”
Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith made changing that woeful statistic a priority in spring practice.
“I think Melvin is certainly addressing it,” Johnson says, “and he knows how to teach it.”
Holsey had a breakout game last season against LSU and moved into the lineup a week later. He started six games down the stretch. As preseason practice nears, he has a different kind of challenge. He moved to safety for the last week of spring practice. Will he be a safety in August? A cornerback? Both?
“I’m getting prepared to play both during the season,” Holsey says. “It’s a lot. It’s hard to learn one position. When they trust me to learn two positions and know I can do it, that means they have a lot of trust in me. That makes me want to work harder.”
The secondary’s struggles were part of a season that got away in 2012. With new coaches came a new attitude. Holsey, from Creekside High School in Fairburn, Ga., says he never second-guessed is decision to spurn Georgia, his childhood favorite, and sign with Auburn. He says is convinced things will better in a hurry.
“Last year was a shock,” Holsey says. “I didn’t know how to take it. We just had to keep working hard and trying to get better. I always knew I picked the right place. Everything happens for a reason. Last year happened for a season. I know for a fact this year will be a lot better than last year.”
Mincy, his veteran teammate, is in full agreement. There can be no repeat, he says, of that kind of misery.
“We know how to come back from adversity,” Mincy says. “I feel everybody has the same goal, to not feel the same way at the end of the year we did last year. Last season was no fun, but we are going in a different direction this year. We are going to make sure we don’t feel that way again.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: