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OXFORD, Miss. — “Otis, my man!”
That was one of the most famous lines from the 1978 classic, “Animal House.”
A few beered-up fraternity brothers go on a road trip and find a bar where the band is their favorite, “Otis Day and the Knights.” The boys find themselves in some unfriendly waters at the Dexter Lake Club as one of the members of the group greets the leader of their favorite frat band with that line.
Saturday, some Ole Miss fraternity members were probably chanting that line as Otis Reese, the newest Landshark, made his first swim into the friendly waters of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Reese notched eight tackles, four of which were solo, and broke up a pass in his long-awaited debut for Ole Miss as the Rebels beat Mississippi State 31-24 in the Egg Bowl.
“I thought he brought some energy out there. You could feel that during the game. He did well, especially just knowing a week ago he was on service team. I think he’s going to get better every week, too.“
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin on Otis Reese
Reese’s energy seemed to be contagious as the Landsharks turned in perhaps their best performance of the season.
— TJ (@TJOxley1) November 28, 2020
“I think we played better, but we’ve got to continue to improve,” Kiffin said. “It’s just a constant thing, and guys continue to get better. And hopefully Otis helps too, and we stay healthy.”
It is still unclear why Reese had to miss the first seven games of the year.
Early last week he was finally deemed eligible to play for the Rebels after transferring from Georgia nearly a year ago. Although other players leaving one school for another were deemed immediately able to play by the NCAA, Reese had to wait nearly the entire regular season before he could make his Ole Miss debut.
Since arriving on campus in January, Reese became an integral part of the Rebels.
“Even though he sat out, he still practices all the time,” senior Ryder Anderson said last week. “He’s in great shape. He’s a great practice player. He was always preparing like he was playing.”
Reese’s preparation certainly showed in his play against State.
“It felt great to go out there and be with the guys,” said Reese, who had been playing scout team wide receiver before being ruled eligible.
“God works in mysterious ways and you’ve just got to keep your faith and keep pushing. It was great. It was a great win.“
Ole Miss DB Otis Reese
“Once they said he (Otis) had lost (his waiver appeal) whatever it was, we couldn’t afford to use those (game preparation) reps,” Coach Kiffin remarked last week. “He’s been down on service team. He actually started this week playing receiver on service to help us there because we were down numbers, until we found out (he was cleared to play).”
Even Reese’s offensive teammates took note of his work in practice and his ability to fill many voids on defense while he awaited NCAA clearance.
“You see him around the ball every play,” running back Jerrion Ealy said last week after hearing Reese was cleared to play.
“I’m not exaggerating when I say that. I truly mean that he’s around the ball every single play. And if he hits you, he’s going to hit you hard. And if you run high, he’s going to hit you hard. And if you run low, he’s going to hit you hard. He’s just going to hit you. And that’s what he does. He flies around and gets to the football.”
RB Jerrion Ealy on Otis Reese
Once the Rebels were informed of Reese’s eligibility, he was ready to roll. His experience and talent made the Landsharks look like a different unit than has played this season.
“We….played a lot better obviously,” Kiffin said after the Egg Bowl victory. “…We got some big stops at big times in the game.”
For anyone wondering, with 8:22 left in the third quarter, Otis Reese is leading the #Landsharks with 7 total tackles, 4 solo. He also has one pass breakup.
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) November 28, 2020
Reese, who played in 25 games during his first two seasons for Georgia, said he wasn’t nervous playing in his first game wearing the red and blue.
“It really wasn’t any jitters. It was just me being a leader, getting the defense ready to go. Bring energy and me meshing with the guys in communication and the details of winning the game and in every aspect of winning the game. I was mainly just focusing on that, more than jitters,” Reese explained.
He was a big part of the defensive stops Saturday, and his constant smile illustrated how happy he was to be a part of the Rebels in an actual game.
Or as the “Animal House” fraternity brother Boon said, “Wait’ll Otis sees us, he loved us!”
And the feeling is certainly mutual.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.