The college football season gets underway Saturday night when former Detroit News Dream Team linebacker David Reese II and the Florida Gators take the field in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes (7 p.m., ESPN).
Reese, who played his high school ball at Farmington, was ranked No. 11 on The News Blue Chip list for the 2016 class. He originally committed to Michigan, but after not being granted an early-enrollment opportunity, he decided to move on to Florida.
Reese is thrilled with his decision to play for the Gators and is even more excited to get his senior season started. He missed the first three games of the 2018 season due to an ankle injury but returned to help the Gators to a 10-3 record, including dominating wins over rival Florida State (41-14) and Michigan (41-15 in Peach Bowl) to end the season.
Now, Reese feels healthy heading into his senior season.
“I’m feeling great and I’m very excited,” Reese told The Detroit News about Saturday’s opener. “Pretty much everybody is excited that football is back, and we’re just happy to have this opportunity. That’s why we come to schools like this – to play on the big stage, Florida versus Miami. There’s going to be a lot of (alumni) legends there so I’m excited.”
Reese has no regrets about leaving Michigan to play football.
“I’m just blessed to have this opportunity,” he said. “It’s the best decision I ever made in my life. I’m about to graduate, and football has been going great.
“We won a bowl game my freshman year (Outback, 30-3 over Iowa) and I got a chance to play in the SEC title game (loss to Alabama). We’re looking to win the SEC championship this year and make a run for the national championship, so we’re going to see how that goes.
“I have great connections down here, and it’s really been a career path that I chose for myself that has set me up for life, and it’s been great being here.”
Reese will graduate with a major in sports management and a minor in business. He is set to graduate in the fall.
Reese was brought in by Jim McElwain, who is now head coach at Central Michigan. Dan Mullen is in his second year as Florida’s head coach. Mullen brought in Todd Grantham as his defensive coordinator, showcasing an aggressive 3-4 scheme.
Junior quarterback Feleipe Franks, who threw for 2,457 yards and 24 TDs (six interceptions) last year, returns for the Gators, who are ranked No. 8 in the first AP poll.
“We really have the talent at all positions,” Reese said. “As long as we execute and push ourselves and things fall in our favor then we’ll be fine.”
Reese had 102 tackles his sophomore year, then 77 tackles last season, including 11 in a win over LSU. Lineman Jabari Zuniga and cornerback CJ Henderson are among Reese’s top defensive teammates, and running back Lamical Perine will line up with Franks in the backfield.
Reese was named to the All-SEC second-team preseason list for this season.
“My preparation has really allowed me to play fast and think fast on the field and be able to get others in the right position, which benefits the team as a whole,” Reese said.
Reese was on that 2016 recruiting class from the state that included Khalid Kareem (Farmington Hills Harrison) and Daelin Hayes (Ann Arbor Skyline) – both starting defensive ends for Notre Dame – Michael Onwenu (Detroit Cass Tech), now a starting offensive lineman at Michigan, and offensive lineman Michael Jordan (Plymouth), who could start in the Cincinnati Bengals season-opener next month.
K.J. Osborn could have been on that impressive class if he didn’t leave Ypsilanti Lincoln for IMG Academy in Florida. Osborn will be playing Saturday night for the Hurricanes after transferring from Buffalo, where he had 53 receptions for 892 yards and seven TDs last season to help the Bulls play in the MAC championship game at Ford Field.
Osborn is among several players that transferred in to Miami this season, along with quarterback Tate Martell (Ohio State), defensive tackle Chigozie Nnoruka (UCLA) and defensive end Trevon Hill (Virginia Tech).
Osborn is expected to be targeted several times with new offensive coordinator Dan Enos – former head coach at Central Michigan and Alabama’s quarterback coach last season – calling the shots.
Manny Diaz will be making his head coaching debut for Miami. He was the Hurricanes’ defensive coordinator before taking the Temple head job, then heading back to Miami after Mark Richt stepped down in late December.