Ideally, Todd Grantham’s aggressive, attacking defensive scheme is about having all the moving parts, of which there are many, working together in perfect harmony.
That’s why junior David Reese, Florida’s downhill, run-stuffing middle linebacker, is doing quite a bit of backpedaling on the practice field this summer.
He wants to make sure he fits into all aspects of Grantham’s defense.
“As far as getting my game better, day in and day out, I’ve been working on my pass coverage, trying to jump routes and be able to help the team in pass coverage also,” Reese said. “This is DBU. We always have a great back end and I want to be able to help that. So, working on my pass coverages this summer.”
In Grantham’s defense, which features lots of stunts and blitz packages, every position group has to work in concert with the others.
The linemen have to keep the offensive linemen off the linebackers so the linebackers are free to make plays. Safeties and defensive backs have to come up in run support (and blitz on occasion). And the linebackers have to do a little bit of everything, including dropping into pass coverage.
That includes the middle linebacker.
Reese is determined to get that aspect of his game up to speed in time for the start of preseason camp, along with developing a complete working knowledge of the defense.
“I feel like it’s as much as knowing where everyone is supposed to be at as far as our back end, the safeties, when they’re going to drop down and what my job is,” Reese said. “Just stay tuned to my key. That’s about it. I feel like that’s the main thing.
“As a team I just want for us to be accountable, for us to do the little things right and just get stronger and faster as a unit. And also have an opportunity to get in our playbooks, look over things and take advantage of the sessions that we have as a unit.”
Reese and his defensive teammates are still in the early stages of learning a multiple defense that is much different than the one they played in under the former coaching staff. So, this summer is critical for defensive guys, Reese said.
“We’ve got to look at our stuff, review this stuff and learn it to the best of our ability,” he said. “Adapting to a new system, you’re going to mess up, there’s going to be mistakes made. But as time goes on, we just can’t make the same mistakes. We’ve got the summer to take advantage of that, so I’m excited.”
Reese is also pumped about what’s going on in the weight room and on the practice field with new strength and conditioning coordinator Nick Savage, who is pretty much like the Gators’ head coach during the summer.
Savage and his staff are pushing the players hard, and Reese said they are responding favorably.
“Everyone’s bought in,” Reese said. “I’m excited, I want to see what Coach Savage thinks about our team, because he said he can usually tell a team’s record by how they come out of the summer. I’m excited to see how we attack the summer and how he prepares us and what he thinks we want to be.”
Everyone already has a pretty good idea what Reese is. As a true sophomore last season, coming off surgery on both wrists, Reese developed into the one the SEC’s best run-stopping middle linebackers.
He led the Gators in tackles (102), was second in tackles for loss (10) and also recorded 1.5 sacks, one interception and one quarterback hurry.
He also evolved into a team leader, a role that is now well defined.
“He’s like the captain of our defense,” senior defensive tackle Khairi Clark said. “A lot of people depend on him. He has that mindset when you got out on that field you’ve got to dominate always. It’s a blessing to have him play behind me because he’s a playmaker. You need that on the field.
“He’s very vocal. He’s going to tell everybody what’s going on. If they’re not doing what they need to do, they need to be on point about it.”
Reese is trying to get on point with his pass coverage this summer. Once he has that down, it will be time to turn it loose in an attacking defense.
“I think it will be fun, blitzing and everything,” Reese said. “I feel like that will be very fun. I’ve still got to stay tuned for what’s in store for the season.”