It’s been a little more than a year since Dev Holmes announced his return to the UAlbany football program, only about four months after the wide receiver left the Great Danes following a tumultuous start to his sophomore season.
The driving force behind that decision to return? His pursuit of his degree in homeland security.
“If I was going to leave,” Holmes said Wednesday during a teleconference with reporters, “I was going to lose a bunch of credits wherever I went.”
Holmes’ return to the program was announced in January 2020, but the former Troy High School star has, like the rest of his teammates, been forced into an extended waiting period as UAlbany’s fall season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, with the rescheduled spring season set to open for the Great Danes on March 5 at New Hampshire, Holmes is geared up to build on the potential he showed during his breakout freshman season of 2018.
Holmes exploded onto the scene early in his freshman year and finished the season with 734 receiving yards. That success wasn’t replicated early in his sophomore year, as he posted just six catches for 36 yards in UAlbany’s first three games. He was then suspended following the team’s third game and left the program after its fourth game.
“I was excited last year,” Holmes said, “then things went south. Freshman year, you saw what I could do, but that was just a little glimpse. I’m bigger, faster, stronger now. I’m excited for this season and the rest of the future here.”
Holmes said he’s “definitely matured” from his experience since his initial break from the program.
“It’s a blessing to be able to play this game in college,” he said. “There’s a lot of high school kids who don’t get the opportunity to play college sports.”
UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso called Holmes, “one of the most mature young men I’ve ever been around.”
“Even though there were some issues that we’ve gotten through,” Gattuso said, “I’ve always thought he was a really intelligent person who thinks beyond his years. When he sits down and thinks about things, he sees that maybe he wasn’t 100% right sometimes, or maybe he was. He handles that really well. He’s an excitable, volatile young person who’s a great athlete, and I like that about him. He has a chance to be a great leader for us.”
Holmes’ return also figures to be a boost for a UAlbany team that’s reloading its receiving corps following the graduation of Juwan Green and Jerah Reeves, who combined for 159 catches, 2,344 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2019.
Holmes’ speed should make him an immediate factor for the Great Danes, and Gattuso said the 5-foot-8 receiver has made a few standout plays in practice thus far, though Holmes is “a little banged up right now.”
For Holmes’ part, he said he’s maintained his chemistry with starting quarterback Jeff Undercuffler and backup Braden Zenelovic, meeting both to throw even after he left the team in 2019.
“The chemistry was never gone,” Holmes said. “It just got better.”
Holmes should also be more prepared to deal with physical defenders this spring. After running into tough coverage following his early-season breakout in 2018, he estimated he’s added about 10 pounds of muscle and now tips the scales at 177 pounds.
“There was no question, he got mugged a bunch of times,” Gattuso said. “He’s got to learn to get through that. All players do, and he has. I watched the same thing happen with Juwan last year, a lot of complaining about people holding and grabbing him, and they don’t get any sympathy from us. It’s, ‘Hey, fight your way through it.’ We don’t control if the flag comes out or not.”
Physically, and mentally, Holmes said he’s ready to deal with whatever comes his way.
“Nothing about me changed,” he said. “They knew I was a hard worker when I came here as a freshman. Nothing changed about me besides the maturity level and me looking at the game differently now.”