No matter the role, Reed determined to be a factor in 2016
There may not have been a player on Nebraska’s defense who ended last season with more excitement surrounding his potential than Antonio Reed.
After only seeing the field on special teams through the first 10 games as a true freshman, a switch flipped with the 6-foot-2, 220-pound safety for the final two contests.
Reed racked up five tackles and forced a fumble on kickoff coverage in the regular-season finale against Iowa, then posted his best game as a Husker in the Foster Farms Bowl with four tackles and another forced fumble against UCLA.
Along with recording nine of 10 total tackles on the season and forcing two fumbles in the last two contests, Reed saw his most extensive playing time yet on NU’s defense in the bowl game.
However, all of that progress was put on hold when the Memphis, Tenn., native had to undergo offseason knee surgery and missed all of spring practice.
The setback was obviously frustrating, but rather than get discouraged, Reed made the most of his situation and tried to gain as much as he could mentally while watching from the sidelines.
In fact, Reed basically became Nate Gerry’s shadow during the spring and summer, mimicking everything the senior safety did on the field and in the film room.
“I mean, he does everything right,” Reed said. “He shows us guys what to do, how to do it, and to do it right… Talking to Nate and all the other DBs, they kept telling me to get the mental reps - don’t be looking around, playing with everybody else. Make sure you focus on the game. So that’s what I did.”
Since returning to action this fall, Reed is steadily working his way back to the level he was at in December. Defensive coordinator Mark Banker said there has definitely been some rust Reed has needed to knock off both in his conditioning and his reaction time.
But given Reed’s overall lack of hands-on experience in Nebraska’s defense, Banker has been pleased with how the sophomore has bounced back so far.
“Little by little he’s coming back,” Banker said. “He really is a true freshman when it comes to the defense because of the fact that he really only played on a regular basis in practice probably the last three or four weeks, and then only played what was supposed to be sparingly in that UCLA game.
“So he’s doing well from an assignment standpoint for the most part with the basics … but as long as he continues to work at it, he will be alright. And we need him. We need him back there.”
Because of Nebraska’s depth in the defensive backfield this season, Reed looks to still be on the outside looking in when it comes to the starting safety spot opposite Gerry. That said, it’s clear that his coaches have big plans for him in the secondary down the road.
Reed is now only working on the punt team when it comes to special teams, indicating the staff wants him to focus more on caching up on the defense. In fact, Reed has already identified the dime back position as a role where can make an immediate impact in 2016.
“My goal is to help this team as much as I can,” Reed said. “I want to be the best I can and help this team to the best of my ability… I like any role I fit in on the team. Anything to help out the team, I’m fine with it.”