This is the first in a series of stories chronicling Jalyn Holmes’ preparation for the NFL draft. The defensive end was an integral part of Ohio State’s dominating defensive line in 2017.

For the past year and a half, Jalyn Holmes has awakened to a distinctive beep.

Since he was little, Holmes has watched the NFL draft, heard that little ding on ESPN signifying that a pick was in, and thought about what that moment might feel like for him.

When the dream for the former Ohio State defensive end was within reach, he set his cellphone alarm to wake him with that same sound. It served as motivation when he wanted to remain curled up in bed instead of heading to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for strength coach Mickey Marotti’s grueling pre-dawn conditioning sessions.

“I came to Ohio State to get a good education and to go to the NFL,” Holmes said. “That (ding) is motivation, almost a reminder that when there are bad days or when you hear it in the morning and you don’t want to get up, get up.”

Holmes hears that ding in Arizona now. After a brief break in Columbus after Ohio State’s Cotton Bowl victory over Southern California, Holmes flew to Phoenix to train at EXOS, a health and performance center, with other NFL prospects, including OSU cornerback Denzel Ward.

Unlike Ward, Holmes is not projected as a first-round pick. But he is regarded as a likely second-day pick. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said recently that Holmes could be a second-round selection.

Holmes hadn’t heard that. He absorbs as little as possible these days about his draft status. What matters to him is work, not speculation.

A typical day begins with a 90-minute workout beginning at 8 a.m.; there's another one in the afternoon. One focuses on speed work, the other on lifting to enhance his upper body. After that, Holmes spends much of his day watching film, including picking apart video of his play.

Holmes returned to Arizona after competing at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, on Jan. 27. He impressed scouts during practices before that game, and he even got a little payback on quarterback Baker Mayfield, who tried to plant an Oklahoma flag in the Block O at Ohio Stadium after the Sooners’ victory in September.

On the team bus, Holmes and Tyquan Lewis — the other Buckeye at the Senior Bowl — confronted Mayfield and began busting his chops about the flag-planting.

“When he first got there — he got there a little late — right after practice, I went up to him and asked him, ‘What was that all about?’” Holmes said. “He immediately knew what I was talking about. We gave him a tough time about it for about a solid five minutes. He really thought we were really, really pissed.”

Holmes said he played the good cop to Lewis’ bad cop.

“Then we let him know it’s all good,” Holmes said. “It’s in the past. It’s college.”

With that taken care of, Holmes shone in the game with two sacks. One came when he made a nifty spin move on Nevada’s Austin Corbett and practically swallowed Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert.

“That just showed I can make those type of plays,” Holmes said. “That was special. The second one, that was a cover sack. That was just effort. Two of my other teammates blitzed them, and I just happened to get him at the end.”

His Senior Bowl sack total matched his 2017 season total for Ohio State.

Sacks are often used as the measuring stick for defensive ends. That's sometimes unfair, because sacks often are the result of a teammate’s pressure or good pass coverage.

Because the Buckeyes had such a deep defensive line, no lineman posted a gaudy sack number. Holmes often played inside when Ohio State used a package of defensive ends in passing situations.

Holmes believes that NFL teams will look past his statistics.

“Those guys get paid a lot of money just to watch tape,” he said. “I feel my tape speaks for itself. Maybe I didn’t have all the stats they would like, but I did a lot of dirty work that sometimes goes unnoticed.”

Holmes hopes that work will get noticed plenty in the next three months as NFL teams compile their draft boards.

And then he’ll await that moment in late April when the ESPN draft ding is for him.

 

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

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