J.R. Reed steps to the table, takes off his sunglasses, flaunts his glistening SEC title ring and enters the hot seat.
Reed is allowed to flaunt a bit — he’s earned his moment in the sun. A lightly recruited three-star recruit out of high school, Reed didn’t get much attention from schools such as Georgia back then.
But after transferring from Tulsa in 2016, he became a key cog on one of the top defenses in the country, starting all 15 games last season. Coach Kirby Smart pushed back on the notion of “returning starters” earlier in the day, claiming not even he knows who will take the field against Austin Peay in Week 1. But it seems safe to pencil Reed in.
This season, with stars such as Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, and several other key contributors gone from the program, Reed will be counted on for even more. He’s among those now taking charge of a young defense.
“We’ve been just leaders, a lot of leaders,” Reed said, when asked about the strides he and his teammates have made. “We’ve asked the whole team to lead each other. Freshmen lead other freshmen, older guys lead everyone.”
Reed also said his first impression of the young players has been overwhelmingly positive.
“(They’re a) very athletic, very talented young group of guys,” Reed said. “There’s a reason why they’re the number one class. And they’re doing a great job.”
There could be as many as seven open spots on the starting defense for the defending SEC champions, many of whom will be occupied by players who are new to the bright lights and big games.
Reed, on the other hand, is now a grizzled veteran. He’s been there, seen that and come out on the other side. Asked whether it would concern him that many of his fellow defenders will be young and inexperienced, Reed, in his wisdom, was not concerned.
“Football is football.”
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.