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2016 MAC Player Countdown #7: Nate Holley, S, Kent State

The MAC’s top safety is number seven on our countdown

NCAA Football: Kent State at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Nate Holley has a knack for getting to the football. Used more as an additional linebacker than a last line of defense, he cares not for your offensive game plan. If there’s a tackle to be made, he usually makes it.

His expertise as a free safety is not in breaking up passes over the top, though he’s no slouch in that department. Rather, he’s most effective in making sure a back’s trip to the second level is as miserable as possible. That is, provided one is lucky enough to get there. Holley is a punishing, versatile tackler, and the proof lies not only in the film but also on paper.

Holley recorded the second most tackles in the conference last season with 139, a mark bested only by Bowling Green linebacker Austin Valdez, who brought down 144 ball carriers. He was second to nobody, however, in solo tackles, of which he recorded 79. That’s an average of just over six per game. All of this was good enough for a second straight selection to the All-MAC first team, an honor that seems to be dominated by Kent State players of late. Everything indicates that 2016 should mark the third straight selection for Holley.

The total tackle numbers are staggering on their own, but even more so when considering the position Holley plays. Of those players among the conference’s top 10 in total tackles a year ago, the Toledo, Ohio native was the only defensive back in the top five, and one of just three on the list. The other two players, Kavon Frazier of Central Michigan and Marlon Moore of Northern Illinois were seniors a year ago, meaning Holley has even less company at the top in a leader board dominated by linebackers.

As if the sheer number of tackles weren’t impressive enough, the manner in which Holley brought this number of players to ground is perhaps more so. Nine times last season he recorded 10 or more total tackles in a game. Five times he managed 15 or more tackles, even once doing so in just three quarters (there’s video proof below!). Against Toledo he recorded 11 solo tackles. Not bad for a former two star recruit.

About that video proof. Draftbreakdown.com took a look at Holley’s performance against Marshall in 2015. Even though the game saw multiple overtimes, Holley wasn’t around to help, as he was ejected early in the fourth quarter for targeting. I’ll let you be the judge of whether or not Holley deserved to be ejected.

Regardless of what happens this season, it’s been a phenomenal career at Kent State for Nate Holley. 2016 is an opportunity to put an exclamation point on that career.