Florida’s offensive line took a shot by losing former signee Issiah Walker earlier this month. But Dan Mullen, John Hevesy and the Gators more than made up for it with this morning’s news: Stewart Reese is coming home.
Reese, a three year starter on the offensive line at Mississippi State, has decided to play his final year of college football in his home state. Reese entered the transfer portal and then chose his new home within a 48 hour span, implying that he’d known for awhile he wanted to be a Gator. As a graduate transfer, Reese will be eligible to play for the Gators immediately.
For lack of a better way to put it, the move makes too much sense to have not happened. A quick check of the timeline, and you’re reminded that Reese was recruited by, signed with, and for one year, played for Mullen and Hevesy in Starkville, so there’s familiarity with the staff. Florida’s critical need for offensive linemen means that Reese is all but guaranteed a slot on the right side of the Gators’ offensive line- either at right tackle, where he played for two years, or at right guard, where he played last year. And his brother just so happens to be Florida linebacker David Reese (the one who got hurt and missed last year, not the one who just signed with the Panthers).
And it’s not like Florida just added a warm body who happens to be a competent lineman. Reese is a legitimate All-SEC candidate. Don’t be fooled by his 247 three star rating coming out of high school. The recruitniks missed, and missed badly in their assessment of him; there’s a reason Florida, Georgia, LSU, Alabama, Auburn, FSU, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Michigan State all wanted him.
First and foremost, he’s an excellent run blocker, something Florida sorely lacked last season. He’s not the fastest lineman on the Gators’ roster, but he’s very likely the strongest and possibly the meanest when it comes to bullying opponents on the field. He can launch himself into a defender and literally take him for an involuntary backwards ride to clear a lane for his running back. He’s definitely not bad as a pass blocker, but his feet can sometimes let him down against more agile defensive linemen. Perhaps this is something he can work on a little bit with Hevesy in his final year in college to really round out his NFL Draft profile.
Most impressively, though, is that coaches and reporters who spent time teaching, watching and covering Stewart Reese all say that when he’s on the field, he has an ornery streak to him, a bit of a killer instinct that can break opponents’ will. That would be the precise inverse of the attitude that the Gators’ offensive line displayed throughout much of last season, and it would perfectly illustrate what Hevesy and Mullen are trying to build.