Ole Miss DB Otis Reese looks to bring energy to 2021 Rebel defense
“He came without instructions, then he came unglued,
Now he’s just a monster in a human suit,
She calls him Barracuda, my Barracuda…” — Jimmy Buffett
OXFORD, Miss. — While the offenses that face Ole Miss this year will be well-aware of the Landshark defense, those teams should be weary of another predator wearing red and blue. Otis Reese is back in the Rebels’ secondary, and he is a barracuda in the school of Ole Miss sharks.
Barracudas are a ferocious, opportunistic predator that rely on surprise and short bursts of speed to overtake their prey.
That is an apt description of Reese.
In only three games last season, after being forced to sit out most of the season until the NCAA powers-that-be approved his transfer, Reese collected 24 tackles, half of them solo stops, along with a broken-up pass and an interception.
“That was a long year for him,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said of the delay in Reese being permitted to play. “Obviously, we were grateful when it happened. He went through a lot of ups and downs. (He) did such a great job on service team but stayed in the game plan, knowing that at any time it could happen. I’m sure that was a struggle since it was so late in the season and he still wasn’t eligible, so he did a good job getting thrown in there. Now he’s had a whole offseason to get comfortable and we expect a really big season from him.”
The Leesburg, Ga., native only got to play in three games after the NCAA dragged its feet in declaring him eligible after transferring from Georgia. That despite college athletics’ governing body allowing Reese’s former Bulldog teammate Cade Mays to be deemed immediately eligible at Tennessee.
Although he was not allowed to take the Vaught-Hemingway turf for a game, Reese was a presence in the Rebels’ practice facility while waiting for clearance to play. Reese serving on the scout team not only helped the team prepare for the upcoming game, but it was also a necessity to allow other players to get ready for that Saturday’s game. That idleness fueled Reese’s fire to play.
“I couldn’t be on the sidelines. I would be in the stands. I couldn’t travel with the team. But you go through different things in life. I’ve been battle tested and I’m ready.”
Otis Reese on not being eligible for much of last year
Even though he was not practicing with the starters during the week, practicing against them made the regulars take notice.
“You see him around the ball every play,” running back Jerrion Ealy said after hearing Reese was cleared to play last season. “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.”
Once he got onto the field, he indeed flew to the ball.
Prior to Reese gaining his eligibility, the Landsharks were surrendering 40.85 points per game. In the three games with Reese, that average decreased to 32.33. The Rebels also surrendered two of their three lowest-scoring games of the season.
One of those games was his first, the 31-24 win over Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl where Reese tallied eight tackles and broke up a pass.
“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,” Kiffin said after the win.
Energy is exactly what Reese wanted to bring to the defense and it was not nervous energy in his first Egg Bowl.
“There really weren’t any jitters,” Reese said after the victory over State. “It was just me being a leader, getting the defense ready to go, bringing energy and me meshing with the guys in communication and in every aspect of winning the game. I was mainly just focusing on that, more than jitters.”
Against Indiana in the Rebels’ 27-20 win, Reese picked off his first pass in his Ole Miss career and returned it 29 yards, while the Landsharks had their best performance of the season.
That performance was keyed by his energy.
“(My energy) all comes from the love of the game,” Reese said Monday at Ole Miss media day.
Otis Reese: "It was a blessing to get to play three games last year. Just to be out there….I believe defense is all about chemistry. "
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) August 9, 2021
Heading into the 2021 season, many experts are pointing to the prowess of the Ole Miss offense while opining the Rebels will be better than a year ago if the defense can simply be good.
“I don’t even think about last year. It’s all about what you do now. I’m only trying to get better.”
Reese when asked to compare this year’s defense to last year’s
With Reese in the mix, the defense can be even better than good. They can be downright ferocious with him on the field —the same way a frenzy of sharks can be more dangerous with a barracuda in their midst.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)