ATHENS — Kirby Smart’s push for Georgia football to create more “havoc” plays starts on the back end of the defense. It is anchored by senior safety J.R. Reed.
Much was made of four juniors offense declaring for the NFL draft, and not enough on Reed’s return.
“J.R, staying really put us over the top because we have this depth,” Smart said.
The depth and experience are key to Smart’s willingness to take more calculated gambles next season with hopes of creating forced fumbles, interceptions, sacks and tackles for losses.
Reed and fellow safety Richard LeCounte were first and second on the team in tackles last season. LeCounte recorded 74 tackles and Reed charted 66 along with two interceptions. That latter figure tied for the team lead.
Having both of those starting safeties back along with cornerbacks Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell — both of whom started multiple games — makes a difference.
“We’ve got some continuity in the secondary,” Smart said. “(Reed) is a great leader. He’s very communicative in that secondary.
“He’s the alpha of that secondary. He says this is what we’re doing. He takes over. He demands guys take notes in the meeting. He is what you want.”
Reed’s leadership could carry over into off-field issues sooner than later, with five of the six Georgia football players arrested this offseason on the defensive side of the ball.
“I came back for this reason, for us,” Reed said on the Bulldogs Game Day TV show. “We might have different players, but we still have the same goals.”
Smart has left no doubt that Reed is getting the job done on the field.
“I think he’ll go down as one of the best leaders to go through here,” Smart said, “because he’s got a chance to be, I guess, a three-year starter.”
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