Khaled Holmes didn't even attempt to hide a smile when the topic turned to Saturday's often-physical-in-the-trenches practice in full pads.
"We worked out short-yardage situation, which is a critical component of the game," he said. "Every game you play, usually, you have one or two situations like that. Anytime that we're in full pads and get to strap it up, it's fun."
Holmes and his offensive linemates helped open some good holes for running backs Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw and Daniel "Boom" Herron as the team's ground game continues to develop.
But much of the preseason focus has centered on Holmes' relative youth and inexperience. The 24-year-old played just 12 snaps during his rookie season a year ago and now finds himself as the projected starter in the middle of the line.
To his right is 23-year-old Hugh Thornton, who started 12 games on the left side as a rookie in 2013. And to the left is 22-year-old Jack Mewhort, a rookie out of Ohio State who could give the Colts three interior linemen whom never have made a start at their respective positions in an NFL game.
"We got some great young talent on the line, they listen and they are like a sponge and absorb the knowledge we try and help them with," said Lance Louis, competing with Mewhort to start at left guard in place of injured Donald Thomas. "I think they will have a good preseason, and I'm just excited to be out there with them and help out with them, and (I'm) looking forward to it."
Holmes has been praised for his work ethic and intelligence. His leadership also will be tested as the preseason rolls on.
The line was beginning to settle in with Thomas in the fold when he again tore the right quadriceps that caused him to miss 14 games last season. Now a new chemistry must form before Indianapolis opens the regular season Sept. 7 at the Denver Broncos.
"Offensive line is a unique position, where it's the only one on the field where five guys have to do the right thing every play or the whole play's not going to work," Holmes said. "There's no other position like that really in sports or football in particular. It's a unique group, and the chemistry has to be right."
The offensive line is a tight-knit group, and that trust should come in handy as the players work their way through the remainder of the preseason. As should the newfound poise and confidence of the center.
Holmes has been more assertive on and off the field, slipping into his new role with more comfort every day.
"We're young, but we have a lot of intelligent guys," Holmes said. "We've got guys that have played a lot of football like (right tackle) Gosder (Cherilus) and (left tackle) Anthony Castonzo and even Donald, before he went down. We have that veteran leadership, that experience on the line, but we also have younger guys that take a great approach to learning the game and getting better every day."