ACC All Access: Holmes' dismissal brings back memories of Branden Ore, but situations very different

After hearing breaking news today from buddy David Teel that Michael Holmes had been dismissed from Virginia Tech in an apparent ruling handing down by the university’s student judiciary board, I started thinking about the last time Tech had to say an abrupt goodbye to a prominent running back.

It’s been five years since Branden Ore was dismissed by Tech coach Frank Beamer. Prior to Holmes, Ore was the last Tech running back with any starting experience to be booted from the team.

On the surface, that’s where the Holmes and Ore similarities end. Though Holmes certainly had recent troubles of his own, he didn’t seem to have anywhere near the same level of accumulated baggage as Ore, but student judiciary board involvement could indicate otherwise.

Ore, a Chesapeake native who earned first team All-ACC honors in 2006 by running for 1,137 yards after skipping the ’06 spring semester in an attempt to get refocused, had a series of transgressions. He was dismissed from the team in March ’08.

He skipped several classes, workouts and study halls, had trouble staying in shape, was suspended for the first quarter of the ’08 Orange Bowl for being late to a practice and testified in Jan. ’08 in Roanoke in a federal drug case in which he was never charged with a crime.

Holmes, who would’ve been a sophomore this coming season, was found guilty in June of a reduced charge of misdemeanor assault and battery stemming from a fight in downtown Blacksburg a few hours after the spring football game. He was given a one-year suspended jail sentence, one year of probation and ordered to pay $13,403 in restitution to a victim.

He has no other record of adult violations in Blacksburg or Christiansburg, according to the Virginia Courts Case Information website. He was also never mentioned or discussed even in hushed tones as a malcontent in the locker room or on the practice field. Again, there may have been unknown wrongdoings the student judiciary board was addressing.

I sat down with Holmes early last season for a 35-minute one-on-one interview. At the time, he was a quiet kid, respectful and polite. He talked about growing up in Harrisonburg, spending time with a friend of his who was into producing hip-hop music, which was also one of Holmes’ passions.

Holmes discussed being uncomfortable in the spotlight. He wasn’t a guy that sought out television cameras. As it turned out, he didn’t have the kind of redshirt freshman season where TV cameras would spend much time looking his direction.


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He started five of Tech’s first six games last season, but he finished the season with just 70 carries for 280 yards and four touchdowns. He had only one carry for minus-2 yards in Tech’s last four games, and didn’t play against Florida State or Boston College.

In April, he emerged from spring practice tied atop the depth chart at running back along with sophomore J.C. Coleman and redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds. The tie was more of a “to be continued in August” announcement in the running back starting job race than it was a nod to any of the trio of backs really separating themselves from the pack in the spring.

Based on his performance last season, Tech might not miss Holmes much in the backfield, but he was obviously still developing. It would’ve been interesting to see if he could’ve worked his way back into a prominent role in the backfield, because he’d obviously lost a lot of momentum by the end of last season.

If Beamer, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler and running backs coach Shane Beamer have designs of utilizing more than two backs this season on a regular basis, oft-injured senior Tony Gregory, redshirt freshman Chris Mangus, 5-foot-8, 171-pound sophomore Maurice Taylor and walk-on Daniel Dyer will by the most likely candidates to work with Coleman and Edmunds.

Gregory has had three torn anterior cruciate ligaments in his football career, and Mangus, Taylor and Dyer have a combined seven carries (all from Dyer) for 31 yards among them.

After his career at Tech came to an end, I visited Ore at Division II West Liberty University in West Liberty, W.Va. when he enrolled there to try to revive his football career. He had 1,257 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns in his only season at West Liberty, plus 30 catches for 314 yards, but he wasn’t heard from on a football field again after that ’08 season in West Virginia.

For Holmes, there will likely be another chance to get his career back on track, too. Coming out of Harrisonburg High, where he was the Group AA state offensive player of the year in both his junior and senior seasons (running for a combined 5,626 yards and scoring 82 touchdowns in those two seasons), he had offers from Tech and James Madison. He also had an offer from Virginia at one point in the process, but U.Va. filled its needs at running back before Holmes made his college decision.


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