EDITOR’S NOTE: The Herald’s sports staff has chosen the Albany area’s Top 10 sports stories from 2018. Today marks the fifth of the 10 we’ve picked as having a significant influence as we count down to No. 1, which will appear in the Dec. 31 edition.
LEESBURG — The verbal commitment was solid.
And for nearly two years, Lee County High School defensive back Otis Reese had in his mind that he would play college football in Ann Arbor, Mich. for coach Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines.
However, that changed on National Signing Day in February when Reese flipped his commitment and stayed home, signing with the Georgia Bulldogs in front of a packed high school auditorium at Lee County High School.
Reese told the Herald that he made the decision to sign with the Bulldogs over Michigan the night before. He also had Central Michigan as one of his finalists.
“Good defense, SEC ball, a dream school,” Reese said. “It was tough. A bunch of mixed emotions. I just had to choose what was right, and I just stayed home.”
He joined former offensive lineman Chris Barnes as the second player in the past three seasons from Lee County to sign with Georgia.
The defensive standout was known as a big hitter and played a key role in helping the Trojans win their first state football title in 2017. He was the Herald’s Player of the Year and was also named the Georgia Class 6A Defensive Player of the Year by the Georgia Sports Writers Association.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound two-sport athlete also played a key role on the basketball team.
Reese was a highly sought-after prospect after his junior year, but he didn’t disappoint during his senior season. He finished with 133.5 tackles, five sacks, 15 tackles for loss, five break-ups and 31 big hits.
Both Harbaugh and Georgia head coach Kirby Smith made visits to Leesburg during the final week of the recruiting period. Lee County head coach Dean Fabrizio said Reese lived up to all the hype he received.
“He couldn’t really make a bad choice,” Fabrizio said. “Michigan, Georgia, they’re both great, great programs with great, great staffs. It will be a little easier trip for us all to see him play now.”
This past fall in Athens, Reese played in 10 of Georgia’s 13 games with 13 total stops. He had four against Middle Tennessee State and three more against Massachusetts. He made his first start at defensive tackle against Auburn.