HOOVER, ALA. — With Georgia safety J.R. Reed returning for his senior season in 2019, Bulldog fans are hoping Reed can do what Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy did when they came back for their senior campaign in 2017, namely lead the Bulldogs to an SEC championship and a deep run in the College Football Playoffs.
A two-year starter in 2017 and ’18 after transferring to Georgia from the University of Tulsa, Reed has been a fiery leader in the Bulldog secondary and, without question, is expected to anchor one of the SEC’s top defensive backfield units in his final go-round this coming fall.
Reed said he certainly had thoughts of leaving for the Natonal Football League following last year’s 11-3 season, a season that saw the Bulldogs winning the SEC East for a second consecutive year but falling short to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and just missing a berth in the playoffs.
“I was pretty close,” Reed said. “I thought it over with my family and talked to Coach Smart. I think I made the right decision by coming back.”
And, certainly, Bulldawg Nation is very thankful J .R. Reed will be patrolling the secondary again this coming season. In 2018 the 6-1, 194-pound Reed started at safety in all 14 games and finished the year with 66 tackles, second most on the team. And in the run to the SEC title, Rose Bowl win and national championship game in 2017, Reed started all 15 games in the 13-2 season, was second on the team with 79 tackles, including 5.0 for loss, and was named to the Associated Press All-SEC 2nd team.
And as the Bulldogs embark on preseason camp the first week of August and begin preparation for the 2019 season opener at Vanderbilt, Reed likes the solid leadership this team possesses.
Talking about the two teammates who accompanied him to SEC Media Days on Tuesday, Reed threw accolades at quarterback Jake Fromm and offensive tackle Andrew Thomas, both junior standouts.
“Jake always comes into work every day, a very happy guy,” said Reed. “He leads by example and is pretty vocal. He does a good job. Andrew is a little bit more quiet than me and Jake but he’s doing a good job. He’s learning how to lead, is stepping up and is being a little bit more vocal. He’s a more personable guy … he’s not going out of his way and yell in front of the group but he’s more a one-on-one guy.
“And me,” added Reed, “I just try to lead by example and vocally. I just go out there and do my thing and I really don’t care about who’s what and what’s going on. My guys in the defensive back room know I’m going to lead and I’m going to be on you no matter what, and I’m going to shoot it to you straight.
“Of course Richard (LeCounte) is very vocal back there, too. We’ve got some good leaders on this team.”
Reed said he’s really been impressed by some of the Bulldogs’ younger players in the off-season workouts.
“From the defensive side, you’ve got Divaad Wilson, William Poole, Chris Smith, Otis Reese. I can name all the defensive backs … Lewis Cine, Tyrique Stevenson … all those guys come in and work. They all have their thing they’re good at and they’re all working really hard. And on the offensive side, you do have James Cook, who’s really good, and Matt Landers has done a great job as a young guy stepping up.”
Reed says you can’t dwell on the Bulldogs coming up short in the SEC title game last season, missing the playoffs and even having a disappointing game against Texas in the Sugar Bowl.
“Every team wants to get to the national championship, get to that level,” he said. “But there’s some good things to take from that season and there’s some bad things to take from that season. So you just kind of learn and move on.”
And asked about the consecutive-year losses to Alabama in the national title game and SEC championship game, Reed said: “You can’t dwell on the past. I’ve been playing for a long time, I’ve been part of this program for a long time and you know we lost on a Hail Mary to Tennessee one year and you can’t dwell on that. We lost to Vanderbilt at homecoming. Those are games that you know happened but you can’t dwell on them. What you do is learn from them. You see mistakes, you watch the film, you break it down and figure out what you can get better at. Then you move on and focus on the next season.
“If you buy into the program … Coach Smart does a good job and everyone buys in and you have great leaders on the team, you can take a program from 8-5 (Smart’s first-year finish in 2016) to the national championship.”
Everyone around the Georgia program is aware of the Bulldogs’ new motto going forward into the 2019 season. It’s “Do More!”
“I tell the guys whatever you did last year, you’ve got to do more,” Reed emphasized. “You figure out where your weaknesses are and your strengths are and you do more of each and figure out how you can get better.”
Reed can’t wait for the 2019 opener, which this season will be an SEC battle on Aug. 31 against Vanderbilt in Nashville.
“It’s always fun to get out there with an SEC game,” Reed said. “It’s like the season starts a little bit faster. Your adrenaline starts rushing and you start jumping a little bit quicker. I can’t wait for it.”