Hey Seahawks fans! I am a writer for RollBamaRoll.com (SBNation's Alabama blog) and have also been a member here at Field Gulls for quite a few years now. You may recognize my previous username, btbama22. Anyway, when Seattle traded up to select Jarran Reed, you can imagine my excitement.
With the awkward introduction out of the way, let's get to the real reason you're reading this: football.
Who is Jarran Reed?
An unrated linebacker in the class of 2011 from Goldsboro, North Carolina, Jarran Reed was resigned to playing college ball for a division II school. However, he drew attention from coaches from across the nation during an eye-opening performance in an all-star game after his senior year. At the last minute, he decided to go to Hargrave Military College for a year to hopefully get the attention of better colleges, as he hit a late growth spurt.
And did he ever grow. Here, he made the switch to defensive line and was soon playing at well over 300 pounds. Unfortunately, he was unable to academically qualify for any division I schools, instead spending his sophomore year at the junior college football factory: East Mississippi Community College.
Located in Scooba, Miss., East Mississippi is known for two things: Books and football. The nearest Walmart is 35 miles away in Meridian and you have to look hard to find anything to do. Even after growing up in rural North Carolina, the Mississippi junior college was a wake-up call for him.
"Honestly, it was only two gas stations in Scooba, and that was it," he [Reed] says. "I know when I first got on the road to get into Scooba, and I saw sand and rock and I saw a man on a horse. I thought where in the world am I going?"
Reed thought he would be able to escape JUCO ranks to join the University of Florida after only one season, but a miscommunication about the number of credits required left him marooned in Scooba, MS for yet another year. It was this last year when he met D.J. Pettway, a former Alabama player that had been dismissed from the team. The two struck up a friendship, and Pettway filled his head with tales of the splendor of Tuscaloosa, AL, and Nick Saban's program.
At this point, Reed had become arguably the top junior college prospect in the entire nation, with coaches from all of the top colleges beating on his front door. He chose to join his friend and play for Alabama over offers from schools such as Ole Miss, North Carolina, and Florida.
Though he had only been on campus for a month, Reed was named the starter at defensive end in Alabama's base 3-4 defense in the Tide's annual spring game. For the first time in three years, life seemed to be moving in the right direction, and he was flourishing in his new home.
Then the quixotic castle in the sky he had been living in came crashing down to earth. He was arrested for a DUI that July, and was suspended from all fall practices with a strict set of tasks to accomplish to work his way back onto the team. Not only that, but he also had to work to regain his starting role after missing the entire fall practice. That he forged his way back and started 13 games that season, despite having only one set of spring practices under his belt of experience with Alabama, is a testament to his tremendous work ethic and natural talent.
In his first season as a starter, Reed recorded more tackles in a single season than any defensive lineman under Nick Saban since Wallace Gillberry in 2007, including current NFL starters Quinton Dial and Marcell Dareus. He almost departed after his junior year to the NFL, but ultimately decided to stay for his senior season with the intent of losing around 15 pounds and becoming a more active and disruptive player.
In 2015, he, along with A'Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen, and a bevy of other lineman, constituted the most feared front seven seen in Tuscaloosa during Saban's entire tenure. Reed was known as the emotional leader of the defense, a man who plays with with his fiery heart perched precariously on his sleeve, a man in which an entire team will rally around.
A story of work ethic. A story of perseverance through continual adversary. Is this story not the perfect Seahawk?
From a Fan's Perspective
Being around Danny Kelly and the other writers here at Field Gulls, all of you probably know Reed's collegiate stats (whether tangible or those mystical PFF grades) better than I do. So instead of parroting more numbers at you, I will divulge to you what I witnessed over the past two years.
In Alabama's true base 3-4 defense, Reed was a starter as a 5-technique defensive end. However, with the proliferation of spread offenses in college football, this formation was only seen in fleeting occurrences. He would still occasionally line up at the 5-technique in mixed fronts and schemes, and he also frequented the 3-technique spot. Occasionally, he would even line up as a 1-technique nose tackle in the center of the defense, but teammate (and generally terrifying human being) A'Shawn Robinson was the preferred occupant of that niche.
At Alabama, he's solely been asked to play in a two-gap scheme. This means that his job is to push an offensive lineman backwards while waiting to shed the block laterally, depending on which side the ball goes to. It requires patience and discipline, rather than launching an unbridled attack. Generally, this scheme does not lead to as impressive individual statistics as a one-gap scheme, where the defender will try to beat the lineman and get into the backfield every play.
Could Reed be a disruptive player in a one-gap scheme? I have no idea. But I do know that he can play as a two-gapping defensive tackle, and I know he's one of the best I've ever seen at it.
If you want one example that effectively sums up his entire game, watch this vine loop against Georgia. Reed is lined up as 1-technique directly across from the center. He explodes off the line of scrimmage before the rest of his teammates, and he pushes the center about one yard back, while not over-committing to one side or the other.
The 225 pound athletic freak of a running back (143.9 SPARQ in high school), Nick Chubb, tries to cross from left to right to get Reed to commit to the left side. Not only does Reed keep his gap responsibility, but he also continues to fend off the offensive lineman with one arm while stopping a charging Nick Chubb dead in his tracks with his other arm, taking the runner to the ground in his bear-like embrace. He literally stopped the Georgia offense single-handedly.
While dominant at the point of attack, Reed excels in one other area: his lateral explosiveness and effort. Even when a play is run away from him, he can always be spotted chasing ball carriers across the line of scrimmage, whether behind or in front of it.
The above play is a prime example of the pure effort and attitude that Reed brings to every game. He eats a double team to allow teammate Jonathan Allen to get a free rush at the quarterback on a stunt. DeShaun Watson, an elite runner from the QB position, eludes the imminent danger and sprints to the sideline to try and outrace the defense to the end zone. Reed, the 315-pound "run clogger," reacts as soon as Watson takes his first step and chases him to the sideline, making the tackle, forcing a fumble, and saving the two-point conversion in a critical moment on the biggest stage in all of college football.
Reed brings this attitude to the table every single game. Though he may not be the most disruptive and penetrating defensive lineman, he is involved in significantly more tackles than a 3-4 two-gapping big man usually is. He can take on double teams, cover two gaps, and chase ball carriers laterally down the line of scrimmage. All of this leads to why Pete Carroll views him as "the best run-stopper in the draft."
Obviously, his biggest knock is the pass rushing. Due to Alabama's heavy rotation of nine regular defensive linemen, he often did not play at all on longer passing situations. When he was in the game on pass plays, he normally attacks with a "mush rush," where he continues two gapping, and his responsibilities are to keep pushing his man backwards while keeping the quarterback from scrambling. Though nowhere near his run stopping prowess, Reed has always handled that role with solid results and is quite adept at getting his hands up to swat down passes.
The question comes back to: can he produce when playing in a one-gap scheme? And again, we don't know. He never did that in college, so there is always the chance that he has untapped potential in that role. Or maybe he stuck to being a two-gap player for a reason. It is a legitimate concern, and a legitimate reason that he dropped from the first round. However, any time someone asks "Well, why would you spend a 2nd round pick on a player that isn't going to play on third down?"
I always respond with this compendious phrase: "Third and one."
A versatile player with a specialized skill set. A person that is the best at his individual craft. Is this player not the perfect Seahawk?
Where Will He Fit in Seattle?
The quickest assumption that the talking heads jumped to when Seattle selected him was that Reed was being brought in to replace Brandon Mebane. Though a reasonable thought, I don't feel like Reed is best suited for the role of the tilted nose tackle (although he could be... It's just something he never did at Alabama).
I think Pete Carroll is envisioning him resuming the old 5-technique role that was held down by Red Bryant a few years ago in Carroll's innovative 4-3 under hybrid front. He can play as a strong side run stuffer on base downs, and then travel inside to the 3-technique when Ahtyba Rubin needs a break. One of his biggest assets will be that he played at the 1-, 3-, and 5-technique spots in both 3-4 and four man fronts while at Alabama. He will be ready to play anywhere on the line from day one in Seattle, allowing the coaches more flexibility in determining which combinations of players will be most effective.
Jarran Reed has been one of my favorite players for Alabama the last couple of years. His playing style is infectious to watch, despite being in the least glorified defensive position. He can bring energy and life to a defense, and there is nothing he loves more than stuffing a Georgia running back. *Glares hungrily at Todd Gurley.*
Personally, I think he will be ready to make an impact from the first game of the season and onwards. Even if it takes him some time to adjust to the NFL, I do not see a scenario where he won't be an important cog for this defense over the next four years. Is Jarran Reed not the perfect Seahawk?