Georgia safety J.R. Reed goes from learning to leading

Georgia safety J.R. Reed goes from learning to leading

April 13th, 2018 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia safety J.R. Reed, who began his college career at Tulsa, started in all 15 games last season for the Bulldogs and fnished second on the team with 79 tackles.

Photo by Perry McIntyre

Georgia redshirt junior safety J.R. Reed never will forget arriving in Athens as a transfer in June 2016.

It was anything but a coddling experience as far as learning the playbook.

"The first day I got here, they put in 17 plays," a smiling Reed said this week in a news conference. "I was like, 'What in the world?' The first day I got here was when I knew I had to strap it on and get into the book."

The 6-foot-1, 194-pound son of former Minnesota Vikings receiver Jake Reed had to sit out the 2016 season after playing as a freshman the year before at Tulsa University. He attacked his studies and started showing promise by the midway mark of last spring.

At last year's G-Day game, Reed earned a starting nod.

"It was a moment I had been waiting for, and it's something I knew I could do," he said. "It was a big learning curve for me. I knew a lot of the playbook, but I was still learning the defense. A lot of older guys took me under their wings like I'm trying to do now with the younger guys."

The Bulldogs held their 11th spring practice Thursday afternoon, working out for two and a half hours. They are scheduled to conduct their second spring scrimmage Saturday, having scrimmaged indoors last weekend.

"The guys had a lot of energy today," Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said Thursday night in a news conference. "I thought it was our best day of pushing through the heat. It wasn't real heat, but 70 degrees seems to be warm these days, and our guys pushed through it."

Reed used his performances last March and April as a springboard to the 2017 season. He racked up 79 tackles, finishing second on the team to All-America inside linebacker Roquan Smith, and had five tackles for loss and two interceptions.

In the 42-7 drubbing of Florida in late October, Reed had eight tackles and a 3-yard fumble return for a touchdown that made it 35-0 midway through the third quarter.

Aaron Davis, Malkom Parrish and Dominick Sanders were seniors in last season's secondary, so Reed and senior cornerback Deandre Baker have assumed leading roles this spring. A lot has changed for Reed in the past year, but he's trying to keep a lot of things status quo.

"Last year, I was trying to prove myself, and this year I'm trying to do the same," he said. "It's all about pushing yourself. I have taken it upon myself this year to impact some of the younger guys. You're only as strong as your weakest link, so I want everyone to be really strong in that secondary."

Said Smart: "J.R. is a vocal guy and was leading last year. He jumped in with a group of leaders and was kind of able to hold his own."

Chigbu finished?

Bulldogs senior receiver Michael Chigbu has been battling injuries that could prevent the 6-2, 213-pounder from New Orleans from playing out his college career.

"He may be thinking about hanging it up, but he hasn't decided yet," Smart said.

Chigbu has 13 career catches for 116 yards.

Odds and ends

Smart said former offensive guard Chris Barnes is "still learning where to line up on the defensive front," adding that Barnes is disadvantaged by having not gone through offseason meetings with his new position group. ... When asked a question Thursday night about Mecole Hardman and his punt-return abilities, Smart was quick to point out that it's an open competition.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.