More than likely, 'Florida Speed' is just a myth, but in the event it's not,
no one can accuse Ohio State of lacking it.
This season, the Buckeyes were already counting on 5-11 sophomore wide
receiver Santonio Holmes to continue where he left off at the end of last
season. Only now, Holmes has his old high school chum Albert Dukes to give Ohio
State a pair of dangerous weapons.
The last time Buckeye fans saw Holmes, he was busy torching the Kansas State
secondary for a pair of touchdowns, tying the Ohio State bowl record for
touchdowns in a game.
Dukes and Holmes were friends in high school, where the two were high school
teammates at Glades Central High School in Belle Glade, Fla.
Newly appointed wide receiver coach Darrell Hazell believes once Dukes and
fellow freshman receiver Devon Lyons adjust to a few things, they will be
"They have to learn the speed of the game before anything else,"
Hazell said. "They definitely both have an extreme amount of talent, but
the game in college is just so much quicker. Once they adjust, they both will be
Holmes already emerged as a bona-fide star in the middle of last season after
Drew Carter was lost for the season with a torn ligament.
After the injury, Ohio State needed someone to step up, and Holmes knew he
was the guy to do it.
"I knew I could do it early in the season too, but I just wasn't as
consistent in practice and on the field as I needed to be," Holmes said.
"When Drew got hurt, Coach asked everyone to step up their game. So that
turned into my time to shine."
With the departure of Michael Jenkins, a first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons, Holmes will now be asked to step up in a different way-to become the
go-to guy offensively.
"Mike (Jenkins) was a great player and did a lot of things that make it
tough to replace," Hazell said. "Every year, however, you always find
guys to step up and improve. The same thing will happen this season."
It was Holmes' presence that helped make Dukes feel comfortable in choosing
Ohio State. With the two being established friends prior to Dukes being
recruited, Holmes spoke with him often about possibly joining him in Columbus.
Holmes doesn't feel responsible for the Florida connection, or any other
possible Florida player choosing Ohio State for that matter.
"I didn't really start a Florida trend," Holmes said. "He
(Dukes) felt like this was the best place for him and he made the choice that
best suited his needs. No player will ever go anywhere just because someone else
Dukes, who caught 58 receptions for 1,031 yards and 17 touchdowns last season
as a high school senior, very easily could have picked N.C. State. But his heart
was with the Buckeyes.
"I just loved the coaching staff and everything about this place,"
Dukes said. "I love the players, and the unity as a team. It made me feel
With one Florida player coming in, many are wondering whether the other one
Holmes, who will be a third-year sophomore this season in eligibility, has
the talent and ability to be a high pick in this next year's NFL draft. Some
people have speculated that this would be Holmes' last season as a Buckeye.
Although his focus is on the team and the upcoming season, Dukes didn't deny
pondering the possibility.
"I've actually talked to my mother about that a few times," he
said. "She said it's my choice and wants me to do what's best, but she
really would like to see me stay in school and finish out my career here first.
But right now, I'm not too concerned about what I will do."
Much like Holmes, Dukes is a smaller receiver with big-time playmaking
ability. Dukes described his game for those who haven't yet seen him.
"I think I can be the total package," Dukes said with a remarkable
amount of confidence. "I can block, I can catch, I am able to get a lot of
yards after I catch the ball, and most importantly, I'm a team player."
Luckily for Dukes, he and the other freshman will have a built-in leader to
learn from in Holmes.
All of the receivers have quickly developed a strong bond as they've hung out
a lot together during the summer. Although Holmes tries to be a leader, he
doesn't feel obligated to take the younger receivers under his wing just because
he's an upper classman.
"I think all of the receivers should help each other out no matter
what," Holmes said. "It shouldn't matter who you are or how old you
are, I think every guy should be willing to help out their teammates even if
they are the same position."
As the season begins, Holmes will have to adjust to double-teaming as
opponents will now focus on him instead of Jenkins, and likewise, Dukes will
have to adjust to the speed of the game in college instead of high school.
But for Dukes, there's one bigger adjustment to make.
"The fans will get to see me adjust to the cold," he said with a
laugh. "That's going to be the real test."
Perhaps the speed difference between Florida and Ohio might be a myth. But
the difference in temperature-that's definitely not a myth. Make no mistake
about it, Dukes will adjust, just like Holmes.