Up and running
Stronger and healthy again, Holman eyes breakout season Posted on 04/17/2012 by PonyFans.com
There’s something visibly different this spring about SMU receiver Keenan Holman, and it’s not just the results of his offseason workouts that having him looking bulkier and stronger, despite his assertion that he actually has lost about four pounds since last season.
The biggest difference is that he’s healthy for what seems like the first time in ages. A year ago, Holman was expected to emerge as a major cog in the SMU offense, a plan that got derailed when he suffered a serious sprain in his right ankle on the Mustangs’ first offensive play in their win over Northwestern State in the third week of the season. Holman missed three games and fought through a limp when he did try to play, finishing the season with just five receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown.
|Wide receiver Keenan Holman said he focused on supporting teammates while dealing with the frustration of a 2011 ankle injury (photo by Travis Johnston).
“I was tackled and landed awkwardly on it,” Holman said. “I didn’t think it was too major at the time, but it was.”
Part of the difficulty for Holman stemmed from the fact that he had never sprained an ankle before, which is something of a rarity for receivers.
“Playing football, playing basketball — I had never sprained an ankle,” he said. “I wasn’t sure how it was supposed to feel, and I had no idea how long they could last. It swelled up like a ball.”
Holman worked his way back to the field, only to injure the ankle again against Tulsa. He played and practiced as much as he could throughout the rest of the season, but he didn’t have the same acceleration and cutting ability he showed during his freshman season, when many identified him as a future key to the Ponies’ offense.
“It was frustrating,” Holman said of his first significant injury since the wrist he broke as a child while playing with his cousin. “But if I couldn’t go, it helped me figure out ways to make my teammates better. I focused on helping (fellow Mustang wideout) Der’Rikk (Thompson) out more. If I couldn’t be out there, I wanted to do what I could to help him have a good year. That’s what (former SMU receiver) Bradley Haynes did for me.
“Football isn’t about individual performance — it’s a team game. I could have taken the selfish way, but if you want to win games, you have to help the team any way you can. If I help Der’Rikk, I help the team. I can’t be mad at him because I got hurt or anything. I got hurt, and he did a really good job.”
The spring also marks a learning curve for Holman and the other receivers as they get accustomed to working with new receivers coach Jason Phillips.
“He’s a very demanding coach, but he relates well to me,” Holman said. “He tells you what he wants, and then he’ll get on you until you do it right.
“He has been where we’re all trying to get (having had a successful playing career in college and in the NFL). We know he’s not going to steer us in the wrong direction.”
Holman said that part of the reason he and Phillips have hit it off is because his new position coach reminds him of one of his earliest coaches.
“My dad was one of my coaches growing up,” Holman said, “and he knew how to challenge me. If you tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to prove you wrong. My dad knew that, and I think Coach Phillips knows that, too.
“When my dad would challenge me like that, I wouldn’t leave the field until I got it right, because you always want to break bad habits. That’s the approach we take with Coach Phillips, too.”