The Chargers are looking to add a linebacker late in the draft or as an undrafted free agent. Does Idaho State’s Christian Holland fit the team?
The Los Angeles Chargers will likely take an offensive tackle and defensive tackle within the first three picks of the 2019 NFL Draft, but are in need of depth at linebacker. One of Tom Telesco’s strengths as general manager is his ability to find gems in the later rounds or from the undrafted free agent pool. Since the Chargers will likely be waiting until Day Three or later to find their linebacker, let’s take a look at small-school linebacker Christian Holland, who was also kind enough to answer questions in an interview below.
Holland, a defensive back while at St. John Bosco High School, won a National Championship with eventual first-round selection Josh Rosen at quarterback. After transferring to Idaho State University, he made the transition to linebacker, where he played both Mike and Will throughout his collegiate career. In his senior year, Holland became a defensive captain, posting a career-best 101 total tackles (9.2 per game), two sacks, three pass breakups, and one forced fumble, with his signature moment coming against Montana State with a season-best 18 tackles.
At 6 foot, 225 lbs, Holland’s size compares to that of current Chargers starting middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, who is listed as 5’11”. 240 lbs. Like Perryman, Holland hits with force; check out the highlights below (No. 44):
Per Pro Football Focus, Holland has a better run-stop percentage (5.43 percent) than fellow draft class member Mack Wilson (4.59 percent), a popular Day Two selection. By comparison, Devin Bush, a likely first round pick, was listed at 6.76 percent.
Projected as a Day Three or UDFA selection, Holland could be next in a line of Chargers linebackers from a small school taken in that draft range. Recent names include:
- Nick Dzubnar, Cal Poly
- Kyle Emanuel, North Dakota State
- Jatavis Brown, Akron
With the departure of Emanuel, who played 43.95 percent of the Chargers’ special teams snaps in 2018, Holland could make his way onto the roster as a special teams player, a role he also had in college. With an aging Thomas Davis, an unreliable Perryman, and a recently injured Kyzir White potentially ahead of him on the depth chart, the former Bengal could find himself called up to the active roster in no time.
Bolt Beat caught up with Holland prior to his Idaho State pro day, and he was gracious enough to answer a few of our questions. Enjoy!
You improved statistically in tackles every year, finishing with a personal-best 101 total tackles in 2018. How do you feel you’ve grown as a player throughout your collegiate career, and what made you so much more successful in your final season?
I’ve grown a lot as a college football player and I think experience is the main reason. I was a roll down safety and was rarely in the box in high school. Getting to college and making that transition to inside linebacker wasn’t difficult physically and I always loved to hit, but it was different mentally. Once I began to understand the position more, the game began to slow down for me and it became easier to make plays. Being a senior in my final season, my coaches pushed me to be a team leader and I embraced that role. I believe having that weight of responsibility on my shoulders, knowing that my coaches and teammates depended on me for leadership, greatly led to my success.
Talk about how it feels to be a “small school” prospect entering the NFL Draft.
Being a “small school” prospect definitely gives me the “underdog” mentality. It can be upsetting and disappointing because there isn’t usually much expected of players in my position compared to Power 5 prospects, but throughout my career I’ve learned to embrace being the underdog. I had zero Division I scholarships out of high school where our roster was filled with players receiving offers from the biggest colleges in America. I went to a Division II university for a year, then transferred/walked on at Idaho State University not knowing any coaches or staff and earned a scholarship after a year. I’m approaching the draft the same way. I may be overlooked or unknown, but I know what I’m capable of, and I believe that will show when the time is right. It doesn’t phase me.
The Chargers have had recent success under their current general manager with small school linebackers drafted in the later rounds or as undrafted free agents. Would they be a team you’re keeping your eye on throughout the draft process?
Being from Los Angeles County, I grew up a big fan of the Chargers and have always kept a close eye on the team. I definitely believe that my style of play is a great fit for their defense.
If/When brought on to an NFL roster, what will you do stand out to the coaches?
I will definitely work and study hard when making it onto an NFL roster, but I believe what separates me from the other players is my love for the game, my ability to work well with others, and my desire to win. When I get on a team, I’m willing to do whatever it takes for that team to be successful. I buy into what the coaches tell me and trust that they will put me in the best position to be successful in whatever they ask me to do, and I believe this mentality that I have also rubs off on my teammates.
The Chargers have gone with the “hammer” philosophy in the draft many times under Tom Telesco. One of the most eye-opening aspects of your game is your ability to hit. Talk about your tackling mentality when chasing down a ball-carrier or rushing the quarterback.
Hitting is and always has been my favorite part of football. When chasing down a ball-carrier or quarterback, my goal is not just to make the tackle, but to tackle hard and make the ball-carrier think twice next time he’s coming my direction.
How much were you asked to drop into coverage in college?
I dropped into coverage very often in college, and because of my background as a defensive back, that is something I was very comfortable doing. Cover 4 was our base coverage at Idaho State University, so I am accustomed to covering a lot of space at the inside linebacker position.
What’s the one thing about yourself that you’d like the rest of the NFL to know about you?
Aside from my abilities on the field, I grew up in a household built on God, love, respect, and responsibility. When I leave the locker room, I believe that I’m a better person than a football player, and I will make any franchise proud of the way I represent them.
Best of luck to you, Christian, and thank you again for taking the time to answer our questions.