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Senior Bowl snub shouldn’t derail former Auburn DB Josh Holsey’s path to the NFL

Auburn defensive back Josh Holsey lines up in coverage against Vanderbilt Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn defensive back Josh Holsey lines up in coverage against Vanderbilt Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Josh Holsey won’t be on the field Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium with his former teammates.

Robert Leff joined Montravius Adams and Rudy Ford as an injury replacement early in the week, but a late invite never came for Holsey.

“Athletic player who has been on our list all season, but knock on wood we haven’t really needed anybody yet on that spot,” Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage said after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s on our replacement list at this point.”

The Senior Bowl isn’t the only postseason exhibition game to snub Holsey. The NFLPA Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game didn’t offer a roster spot to the defensive back either.

“I am surprised,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said when he visited Mobile on Wednesday. “He had a great year for us. He’s a veteran guy. I really believe strongly he will play at the next level.”

Holsey expressed his frustration about the situation on social media this week.

“I lock up a lot of ppl (SIC) in these senior bowls,” Holsey tweeted during Tuesday’s practice.

Holsey was Auburn’s most consistent player in the secondary this season with 30 tackles, 27 solo, and a team-leading three interceptions, but the defensive back’s injury history — two ACL tears in his left knee — is an issue for many NFL teams.

Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, who spent three seasons coaching linebackers with the Carolina Panthers, downplayed those concerns in Mobile this week.

“Josh has been a guy that’s fought back from really tough things in terms of injuries and been a guy that’s made it back and produced on the field,” Steele said Wednesday. “In the National Football League those guys want guys to produce on the field. A lot of those guys that play on Sundays have had the same injury the same number of times Josh has. That’s not an issue.”

When discussing Holsey’s draft prospects, Steele stressed the defensive back has the intelligence, work ethic and instincts to play at the next level.

“Once he gets on the grass in somebody’s camp those things are going to be noticed,” Steele said. “He’s going to get a chance.”

Holsey hopes his body of work as a senior will help convince teams his injury issues are in the past.

“Turn on the film,” Holsey said leading up to the Sugar Bowl. “That’s all I can really say right now. You can’t really say much. I got two torn ACLs, but I ain’t play like I got two torn ACLs, come pro day I definitely won’t run like I got two torn ACLs. It will just be who can trust me. I got to build that trust with somebody.”

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. didn’t rule out Holsey hearing his name called in this year’s draft during the broadcaster’s most recent conference call with reporters.

"The medical part is important for all these kids, but I'd say fifth to seventh round is a possibility," Kiper said. "But more than likely you look at only seven rounds, not 12 rounds, could still go undrafted possibly but I would late rounds is within the realm of possibility."

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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