There's a lot to like about DeVonte Holloman. Just ask Shane Beamer.
As the USC position coach for the sophomore strong safety, Beamer has come to the same conclusion of many who have met Holloman: good player, good student, good guy.
In fact, Beamer smiles as he relates how his other position players give him grief about the favoritism that he supposedly shows Holloman.
"The players in that room, the spurs and boundary safeties, kid me a lot because they say I'm always complimenting him and always pointing him out," Beamer said. "Sometimes I'll be pointing out a guy out on film and say it's DeVonte when it's not DeVonte, and they all kid me, "You hoped it was DeVonte,' stuff like that, or 'He's your son,' and all that."
But Beamer can explain why he likes Holloman so much: "He just does right and wants to be great."
As a freshman last season, the 6-foot-3, 226-pound Holloman played in all 13 games, starting twice. He was a member of the SEC academic honor roll last fall and won the Harris Pastides Scholar-Athlete Award in the spring. One week into preseason practice, Holloman, who is penciled in as the starter at strong safety, has done nothing to change Beamer's view.
"We want him to get more and more comfortable out there and get stronger, and he's done all that. He's had a really good preseason camp," Beamer said. "He hasn't arrived by any stretch of the imagination, but he's a quality guy to be around. He works hard. He's conscientious. I respect what he's about on and off the field."
For his part, Holloman prefers to talk about the team. His goal when he came to USC was to be part of the group that lifted the program to an SEC championship. He knows something about championship football, having helped lead South Pointe to the Class AAAA state title as a senior in 2008. He teamed with USC cornerback Stephon Gilmore on that squad, and the two are expected to play key roles for a veteran USC defense.
He likes what he's seen in camp.
"Everybody's working hard to get better. As a team, we're excited just as much as the fans are," Holloman said. "During recruiting, coach Spurrier preached to me about doing something that's never been done here before. That's pretty much in everybody's mind right now, but we're still taking it day by day and working hard."
Gilmore, who is considered one of the top cornerbacks in the country, said Holloman's support -- the two skipped their final semester of high school and enrolled early at USC -- was invaluable in helping him make the transition to college.
"Without him, I don't think I could have done what I've done already. He helped out a lot," Gilmore said.
Beamer is confident Holloman has the acumen to handle the additional responsibilities that will come his way this season.
"This offseason we talked to him about having a better understanding of the defense," Beamer said. "At the safety position he plays, you've got to make a lot of calls and you've got to make a lot of checks. We challenged him to really learn the total defense, not just what he does."
The coaching staff got a good sense of Holloman's progress last year in the final game of the regular season. With Clemson driving and the score tied at 7, Holloman intercepted Kyle Parker and returned it 54 yards deep into Tigers territory. That led to a quick USC touchdown and a lead the Gamecocks would not relinquish in a 34-17 victory.
"That was a big play to swing the momentum right back. To me, that play exemplified him growing as a player over the year," Beamer said. "We were in zone coverage, and basically he had an awareness of the whole field, not just what was right in front of him, and read that quarterback's eyes and made a great break on the ball."
Holloman hopes all the breaks go the Gamecocks' way this season and they are able to leap past Florida and Georgia in the SEC East.
"That's what we're here striving for. Everybody here wants it. Everybody speaks of it," he said. "I think our work ethic and the way we go out there and play our in day-to-day-practices will show us if that's going to be attainable."
Spoken like a true favorite.