Is Georgia RBU? After producing the likes of Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in recent years, the Bulldogs 2018 tandem of D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield were the only duo of the aforementioned names to both eclipse 1,000 yards in the same season. While we have to wait until next year for Swift to be draft-eligible, Holyfield is part of the 2019 class and its time he’s mentioned as one of the top backs in the class.
A four-star recruit, Elijah is the son of former cruiserweight and heavyweight boxer Evander Holyfield. Yea, that Holyfield who handed Iron Mike Tyson consecutive losses after previously boasting a professional record of 45-1. Evander is the only boxer in history to win undisputed championships in two weight classes and the only four-time world heavyweight champion. Like Evander, Elijah is the real deal.
The first thing that pops when studying Holyfield’s tape is how competitive of a runner he is. He is going to challenge defenders with physicality and contact balance. He forces opponents to make business decisions and if they come at him soft they will get embarrassed. On this rep, Holyfield makes three different LSU defenders miss before he goes out of bounds, culminating with running over John Battle who thinks Holyfield is going to quietly slip out of bounds. Poor assumption – he took this one to the chin.
A masterful between the tackles runner, Holyfield does well to find creases and angle his frame to get through cracks while taking advantage of his low center of gravity and power to fight for every inch. He doesn’t just plow into the line of scrimmage, he has good vision when pressing the line of scrimmage and knows how to navigate through traffic to maximize his touches. Look at him bob and weave through the pile.
Take a gander at this next rep, which I believe encapsulates Holyfield’s best qualities as a runner. A short-strider, Holyfield uses that to his advantage to make sharp cuts in tight quarters and attack holes. Just look at how he strings together the cuts on this play. Forced to quickly cut back, Holyfield gets his feet well outside his frame to angle back to his right to beat the second threat (No. 90) and get through the crease. From there, Holyfield does what he does – reduces his pad level and dares the safety to get him on the ground. It would require literally the entire LSU defense to join the pile and even then, Holyfield takes the team for a ride. Holyfield is a fighter.
There’s a glorious tradition at the end of most Holyfield runs where multiple people with a different color jersey are on the ground when Holyfield finally goes down. His physical style of running sets the tone and defenders know he’s going to keep punching for four quarters. He isn’t the most creative open field runner but he will wear out a defense and make it a battle of attrition. He comes out swinging in every round.
Holyfield isn’t necessarily a true homerun threat but he does deliver blow after blow and is capable of landing a knockout punch. Attacking the perimeter on this carry, Holyfield breaks the angle of two different LSU defenders rips off the long gain. He has enough speed to work off-tackle and challenge tacklers to take good tracks in pursuit.
Holyfield didn’t contribute much as a receiver at Georgia but he did prove his ability to serve as a standout pass protector. Standing toe to toe with blitzers, Holyfield does well to frame rushers, leverage his hips and land his punch to absorb contact and keep the quarterback clean. That’s exactly what he does on this play, picking up the blitzing linebacker so Jake Fromm can cleanly deliver the first-down strike.
Today’s NFL running back stables typically feature a blend of complementary skill sets. For a team in search of a power runner with good vision and enough juice to rip off chunks of yardage while taking care of business in pass pro, Holyfield can be that dude. He can keep a defense on the ropes and the back you want in your corner.