There’s not much flash to speak of when it comes to Florida Gators junior linebacker David Reese. He simply goes out and gets the job done.
That’s what he’s been doing as a steady presence in Florida’s defense for the last two years.
He’s had his struggles, mostly due to a lack of speed in coverage, but still managed to be one of the most consistent tacklers on the team. He led the Gators by a long shot with 102 tackles to his name a season ago.
With a new coaching staff and a new scheme coming in this year, along with a young group of linebackers, a player like Reese is exactly what Florida needs right now.
Despite the short timeframe he’s had with Todd Grantham and the new defensive staff, he already knows the defense inside out. He spends day and night learning whatever he can, not only for himself, but so he can help his teammates as well.
Reese said he thinks the team is about 70 or 80 percent comfortable with learning the new defense so far. He is trying to bring that number up to 100.
“David Reese knows everything,” said redshirt freshman linebacker James Houston. “If you have any question you can go to him anytime, he’ll give you an answer.”
Not only Houston, but several of Florida’s other young linebackers have commented on how helpful Reese is to them when they are having trouble understanding something.
But this is not something new. It’s how Reese has always been. He has made it his duty to be a leader on defense since the day he stepped foot on campus.
“When I got here last year, it was the same way,” Houston said. “He knew everything in the playbook. That’s who he is. He gets into it and he’s the Mike linebacker—he’s the quarterback of the defense. He has to know everything. He has to be able to tell people what they have to do and stuff like that.”
While it is great to have someone like Reese out there to rely on, all of that responsibility should not have to land on one player.
Some leaders on the defensive line are making sure it doesn’t. Reese pointed out players including TJ Slaton, Elijah Conliffe and Khari Clark as guys stepping up to help him keep things running smoothly.
“All those guys know the plays, know the calls,” he said. “Some of the times, they’re calling out the calls before I do, before I can say them all. It’s good to know that when your D-line knows what they’re doing, it’s going to help the back end also.”
It is a luxury to have multiple leaders emerging, but Reese is still the guy others, especially younger players, look to. He said it is his goal to be sure his communication is strong enough that the other players are comfortable and able to go as hard as they can every single play.
“I feel like my role on this defense is basically glue,” Reese said. “Just glue the pieces together, because I’ve got so much talent around me. Just make sure we’re communicating and everyone’s playing on the same page. We’ve got all the athletes in the world. As long as we’re one, we’re going to be hard to beat.”
That calming presence will be huge for this defense when it takes the field for the very first time in a few short weeks.