Georgia safety J.R. Reed takes questions during SEC Media Days p at the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday.
Photo: Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Georgia’s J.R. Reed goes from lightly regarded recruit to Media Days spotlight

As a high school senior, he was a two-star recruit, the 1,856th best college-football prospect in the nation, according to one composite ranking. When he transferred from Tulsa to Georgia in 2016, he remained a far-below-the-radar player.

But Georgia thinks so highly of safety J.R. Reed now that he was one of three players representing the Bulldogs at SEC Media Days on Tuesday. 

Reed envisioned it working out this way all along.

“I bet on myself,” he said, “and I knew I could do it.” 

He played in 13 games (but did not start) as a freshman at Tulsa, then transferred to Georgia because “I wanted to play against better competition.” He arrived in Athens with clear goals: “I just had expectations of playing and starting, and I knew the rest would take care of itself.” 

He had to sit out the 2016 season under NCAA transfer rules, but started all 15 games for Georgia last season. 

He wore his gaudy SEC championship ring – and a snazzy bow tie – to Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame and adjacent Omni Atlanta Hotel. 

“It was one of my goals this year” to be chosen by coach Kirby Smart as a Media Days participant, Reed said. The selection reflects how highly the Georgia program values him, on and off the field. 

“I’ve watched media days since I was little,” Reed said. “Words can’t describe how I feel right now, coach Smart picking me to be here.”

“Very bright kid,” Smart said of Reed. “Played really well for us last year and was not afraid to step up and say things that needed to be said. We expect those same things from him.” 

Reed acknowledged the satisfaction of the journey from lightly regarded recruit to key player on a team that reached the national championship game last season..

“My mom – every time I call her she reminds me (of the journey),” Reed said.

Georgia fans didn’t know what to expect from Reed when he arrived in Athens from Tulsa. Suspicion held that he was brought to Georgia in part to help lure his cousin, highly regarded prospect Deangelo Gibbs, to Athens. Gibbs joined the Bulldogs in their 2017 recruiting class.

“That’s the reason I have a chip on my shoulder, from guys saying I was only brought in for (Gibbs’) recruitment,” Reed quipped to reporters Tuesday.

Reed, the son of former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jake Reed, is from Frisco, Texas. He committed to SMU, but switched to Tulsa after the resignation of SMU coach June Jones.

Reed fielded numerous questions at Media Days about how Georgia’s 2017 season ended, with an overtime loss in the national championship game when Alabama scored on a second-and-26 walk-off pass.

“We can’t do anything about that. That’s in the past,” Reed said. “It’s all about how we react and how we go forward. The media always brings it up, but in the locker room, as a team, it’s already behind us. 

“You’re sick to your stomach when it happens,” he said of the play that ended the game and the season. “Next day, you watch the film. After that, move on.”

Georgia linebacker D'Andre Walker recorded 40 tackles in 2017, tied for seventh on the team, but ranked second in tackles for loss (13.5) and in sacks (5.5). Defensive back J.R. Reed recorded 79 tackles in 2017, second on the team behind Roquan Smith, who left for the NFL. Reed also recorded five tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and two interceptions. Cornerback Deandre Baker ranks second among 2018 returning players in tackles and interceptions in 2017. Linebacker Monty Rice recorded 22 tackles as a freshman

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