LSU's Holliday hopes to get fewer plays off in '09

Aug 21, 2009 - 12:24 AM By BRETT MARTEL AP Sports Writer

BATON ROUGE, La.(AP) -- LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson cracked a dismissive grin at the idea of 5-foot-5 speedster Trindon Holliday picking up a blitzing linebacker.

"We're not going to use him in pass protection when he's 170" pounds, Jefferson said after practice this week.

At least, that's what Jefferson says now.

Holliday, who can make a credible claim to the title of fastest player in college football, has had a lot more time to focus on a variety of skills now that he's no longer trying to become an Olympic sprinter - something he nearly accomplished leading up to last year's Beijing Games.

Heading into his senior season, Holliday said he is doing everything he can to be on the field for as many offensive snaps as possible.

While he usually is used on runs to the outside, he's trying to show he can be an explosive inside rusher as well.

"All I need is a little seam to try to hit it and go," he said.

He wants to catch swing passes and line up as a slot receiver, much like Reggie Bush does with NFL's New Orleans Saints.

And, yes, Holliday's worked overtime on his pass-blocking, too.

"I could be underestimated in pass protection," Holliday said defiantly. "I'm going to let the defenses think whatever they want to think, and when they come in there, it's going to be something they have to try to get around."

Holliday, who grew up in the small town of Zachary, just north of Baton Rouge, has been underestimated because of his size, or lack there of, all his life. His own mother, fearful that he'd get hurt, wouldn't let him play football until the seventh grade.

He expects more of the same next year, when he tries to make it in the NFL.

"I'm just going to work hard and give it a shot," he said.

Asked how many people have already told him he's too small to go pro, Holliday matter-of-factly responds, "A lot of people told me I was too small to play in college, so I take the negativity as motivation."

No one questions his speed, though.

In 2008, Holliday advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Olympic trials for the 100-meter dash. He continued to compete in track last spring for LSU, setting a personal best time of 10.00 seconds for 100 meters. He was the Southeastern Conference champion at that distance, as well as at 60 meters during the indoor season.

When he finds space to run on a football field, forget it.

Last year, he broke a special teams rule by fielding a punt inside LSU's 10-yard line in an early season game against North Texas. Holliday said afterward that it looked to him like the punter had outkicked the coverage, so he caught it at the 8 and started up field. It wasn't long before the Tiger Stadium crowd was on its feet, roaring as they watched Holliday's 92-yard score tie the longest punt return in school history.

He had 609 kickoff return yards in 2008 - the second-most by an LSU player in one season - on 27 attempts.

Teammates love watching him run, and say he's tough, too.

"He bounces off hits real easy," senior tight end Richard Dickson observed. "It's very rare that one guy takes Trindon down. People underestimate his strength."

Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton said he likes the idea of having Holliday on the field more, not just to use his speed as a ball carrier, but also to use him as a distraction to defenders, who often can be heard yelling "eight," Holliday's jersey number, whenever he runs onto the field.

"You don't want to be typecast, so to speak," Crowton said. "If we can train the guys so they're dual threats, not just with the ball, but without the ball, that's what we're trying to do with Trindon Holliday. Then when he comes in the game, the defense - they don't have a tendency on him."

Other members of the offense have taken note of Holliday's improved all-around game and confirmed he is indeed appearing in more offensive formations in practice.

"Trindon's a force to be reckoned with. People don't understand how hard it is to take down that little guy," LSU offensive lineman Ciron Black said. "It's Trindon's year. Trindon knows what he's got in front of him, the opportunity that he has to play - and make huge plays for our offense."

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