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Darnell Holland’s humility, energy lead Owls’ running back room

August 30, 2018 Atlanta - Kennesaw State running back Darnell Holland (33) eludes a tackle by Georgia State linebacker Victor Heyward (37) in the first half during the 2018 season opening game against the Kennesaw State at Georgia State Stadium on Thursday, August 30, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
August 30, 2018 Atlanta - Kennesaw State running back Darnell Holland (33) eludes a tackle by Georgia State linebacker Victor Heyward (37) in the first half during the 2018 season opening game against the Kennesaw State at Georgia State Stadium on Thursday, August 30, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Kennesaw State Owls were challenged over their bye week to assess two areas in which they want to improve individually as the team moves into the final games of the regular season and into the playoffs.

Senior running back Darnell Holland selected a technical focus — perfecting his routes off pitches — and a relational one of being a more intentional communicator with his teammates. The latter goal is surprising considering how vocal and encouraging teammates have said Holland can be.

When asked to describe Holland and his strengths as a teammate, quarterback Chandler Burks couldn’t stop talking. Burks has known Holland for the running back’s entire career at Kennesaw State and without thinking, said the most noticeable thing about Holland is the energy he brings to the field and his position group.

“The biggest thing I think of when I think of Darnell is him being so electric,” Burks said. “He’s explosive, he’s fast. Within one play you could see the back of his numbers and then within a few seconds you could be seeing him do a touchdown dance. He’s that kind of guy for us. He pushes his room, his position room to another level ... and they push him as well because he knows that if he doesn’t bring his A-game, he’s going to have to take a step back and let those guys (play). He knows that they can shine as well.”

Behind Burks who leads the team with 516 rushing yards, Holland is the running back with the most rushing yardage (403 on 34 carries) through seven games. Holland also has the longest scoring run of the season of the season, a 75-yard touchdown run against Tennessee Tech on Sept. 6.

In four years, Holland has gone from an 18-year-old in a start-up football program to the team’s leading running back, but he doesn’t like to speak of his own success. Instead, he chose to say he hoped he was doing enough each day to send this senior class off the right way in the postseason and to leave a positive mark on his teammates.

“I would hope that people would say that I’ve become a better teammate and just working on the things I can control and becoming a better communicator for my team and the guys around me,” Holland said.

Averaging 11.9 yards per carry this season, Holland is coming off Saturday’s 56-17 rout of Gardner-Webb in which he recorded a team-high of 78 rushing yards and one touchdown.

Holland said he’s focused on using the bye week to rest and prepare for the task ahead of facing four more teams, three with winning records.

“I think (the bye week) will prepare us for this game and from that game on, we’ll just prepare,” Holland said. “We know that each game we win makes the next game the most important, so we’re definitely eager to take on Charleston Southern who beat us at their home two years ago just saying what can we do then to just better ourselves for this next big game.”

Kennesaw State (6-1, 2-0) had its first practice Wednesday after Saturday’s win. It will practice Thursday and Friday before treating next week as a typical game week ahead of its trip to Charleston Southern.

Kennesaw State will kick off their next game at Charleston Southern at 6 p.m. on Oct. 27.