Sometimes in the darkest and most dire of times, leaders emerge.
That’s apparently what has happened with the Florida football team. Saturday’s new low — a numbing 45-16 loss at Missouri — has produced a new team leader.
Sophomore middle linebacker David Reese.
“David Reese made a comment on this football team (after the game),” UF interim head football coach Randy Shannon said Monday. “I think this comment has really made him be the guy that is a leader on this football team. A guy who’s not afraid to speak his mind and speak what he really believes in as far as this football team.”
Reese basically called the Gators out for their poor overall performance in the loss, saying the players didn’t play for each other and their coaches. He challenged everyone to come together and player better.
“I just want to say one thing. We loved every single one of our coaches that’s been through here,” Reese said Saturday. “It’s unfortunate what’s happened to them. I hate the way we represented our coaches like that today with this game. Those guys really care for us and gave us a real good game plan to do what we had to do.
“It’s sometimes disappointing when everybody doesn’t want to come together and just play for each other. That’s sad to see. We’ve still got a lot to play for. Me personally and our defense, we want to play for those guys. We can’t have appearances like we just had today. That’s unacceptable.
“We’ve just got to find guys that are still willing to give it all for one another.”
Shannon said he didn’t see Reese’s comments, but he heard about them, and appreciates Reese’s candor, and what it might do for this struggling young football team that seems lost at times.
“By him making those comments, I think that this team has really kind of looked in the mirror and said, ‘OK, Reese called it out and this is what we believe in and this is what we’ve seen,’ “ Shannon said. “He’s challenged everybody. It wasn’t a call-out. It wasn’t downing anybody. He’s just challenging everybody to be all-in like he is.
“I think that’s the one thing we want for this university and anyone that’s part of the university, who’s part of the Gator brand. They want to be at a high level, they want to be the best that they can be, like anybody in today’s life.”
In Saturday’s 29-point loss, the Gators carried themselves like a team lacking leadership. There was an overall lack of effort, energy and emotion. Some players seemed indifferent to what was happening. Others quit on a play. Others were selfish by making foolish decisions and penalties.
Shannon said it was a team lacking leadership, because the team leaders heading into the season are no longer playing due to season-ending injuries
“The alpha, big-time for this football team was (senior safety) Marcell Harris,” Shannon said. “OK, when you lost Marcell, then it became (senior defensive end) Jordan Sherit. Then you’re losing Sherit. Then all of the sudden it becomes (senior safety) Nick Washington. Then you lose Nick Washington.”
And now the new team leader has emerged — a true sophomore from Michigan who played with all kinds of passion and energy in the loss to the Tigers. Hustling from sideline to sideline, Reese made a team-leading 13 tackles, including seven solo stops.
His effort justified his postgame comments calling out his teammates.
This is a team that was looking for a leader and has now found one.
“The guy who’s stepping up right now is a true sophomore that had played three games last year and the games this year,” Shannon said. “That tells you something about this football team. It’s a young team, they’re looking for a leader.
“Now he can become our leader because he’s been having some great games, a lot of tackles. He’s been playing hard, he’s been making plays and guys will look up to that, because you always want a guy who plays the game as a guy who can speak because he’s productive. Guys will look up to a guy like him because he’s productive.
“He’s challenging his teammates and everybody on this football team.”
The players say Reese’s comments were something that needed to be said.
“We definitely needed to become more of a team,” junior offensive guard Tyler Jordan said. “Coach Shannon has talked about it. Coach Mac, when he was here, he talked about it. We have to take it upon ourselves to come together.”
The Gators are welcoming their new leadership.
“I think it’s good that someone’s stepping up, filling the leadership role with many of our main leaders down,” junior defensive tackle Taven Bryan said. “Don’t have Jordan Sherit anymore, one of our bigger leaders. Nick Washington, people like that who are injured. It’s really good for someone to fill in and step up to be a leader.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.