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When DawgNation reported that Kirby Smart had said Otis Reese would start at safety I immediately thought that was a fantastic idea. That level of physicality is needed, especially in the secondary, to be dominant in the SEC. My question is can he compete for a starting spot immediately? Or does Kirby let try him out some snaps at star since most players that had snaps there are gone?
― Ross Chadwick
The short answer is no, I do not expect Reese to compete to start right away. But that comes with a couple of caveats. And it leads to another question from a reader, which we will address here as well.
J.R. Reed, the returning starter at one safety spot, and Richard LeCounte, who played off the bench as a freshman, begin as the favorites to start in the back end of the Georgia secondary. If those two are healthy, and neither of them moves positions, then they seem very likely to be the starters.
But there also doesn’t appear to be a definite third player now: senior Jarvis Wilson will be fighting for a spot on the two-deep with redshirt freshmen William Poole, Latavious Brini and Tray Bishop. So there’s an opening for someone to push into the conversation there, and Reese could do that. There’s also the chance that Reed is employed at a different spot, such as star, which he played last year. If that happens, that will leave one safety spot wide open. (You can check out my pre-signing day analysis of the Georgia secondary, which came before Tyson Campbell and Reese signed.)
What helps Reese is he’s not going to be learning a new position. Safety is what he played in high school. He was projected as a linebacker by a few people, but not Kirby Smart and Mel Tucker. But he’s also not enrolling early.
Reese, as you mentioned, also could be a candidate at star. There will be no shortages of candidates there, including Tyson Campbell, and who the Bulldogs use could depend on the opponent and the scheme. Which brings us to ….
Dear Chip and/or Seth: With Otis Reese now on board, what are the chances we see more 3-3-5 defense, with Reese at strong safety moving seamlessly between a 3-4, 4-3, and nickel (I’m assuming no 4-4, since it clashes with Smart’s secondary scheme)? If so, which player would be the on-field coach making sure everybody is in position?
― Matt in Australia
You scheme to defend the opponent, but oftentimes a team also is forced to scheme toward its personnel to cover up weaknesses.
Well, that’s the beautiful thing about recruiting so well. Could Georgia still have weaknesses on a defense that loses seven of the players who started, as well as two key reserves, in the National Championship Game? Yes, this will begin as a defense that is deficient in experience. But that’s what September home games against Austin Peay and Middle Tennessee State are for: experience. Granted, the Week 2 and Week 4 games, at South Carolina and Missouri, could be dicey.
But the nice thing for Kirby Smart, Mel Tucker and company is that based simply on talent, they should be able to move a lot of pieces around to fit the schemes they would like to run against each offense. It’s just a matter of how quickly the experience catches up to the talent.
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