Zach Mettenberger lined up the LSU offense during a preseason passing drill with an eye on Eric Reid, who kept close attention to every move being made across the line of scrimmage.
Running a formation Reid had only seen a handful of times, Mettenberger thought he would finally get the upper hand on the preseason All-Southeastern Conference safety.
But Reid had other ideas.
“Don’t even think about it, Zach,” Reid cautioned, hinting he knew the play before Mettenberger himself had a full grasp of what was about to happen.
The first-year starting quarterback didn’t heed Reid’s advice, sent a man in motion and ran the play as called — a deep post to Reid’s side — and sure enough, it failed. Reid blew up the pass and sent Mettenberger back to the huddle shaking his head and wondering aloud, “how the hell did he know that?”
That’s just one example of Reid’s almost psychic ability to read offenses, a trait that’s haunted Mettenberger since the spring and something opposing SEC quarterbacks have had to account for every time they drop back in the pocket.
But that skill doesn’t come from a deck of tarot cards or a newspaper horoscope. It starts with Reid’s brain.
A 4.0 student out of Dutchtown High School, Reid came to LSU intent on studying engineering before realizing majoring in football would demand enough attention without the added work of an upper-level physics class. Reid now majors in business administration, but it’s his work in the film room, not the classroom, that fans see on Saturdays.
“When you’re a good student-athlete, it translates to the football field,” said senior receiver Russell Shepard. “It makes it easy because you’re able to study the game, able to break down film. That’s something that’s been a benefit to him and it’s rubbed off on a lot of young guys.”
Reid has taken that to the next level this season, transforming from a student of the game to a teacher of the game.
With the departures of Morris Claiborne, Brandon Taylor and Ron Brooks to the NFL, in addition to Tyrann Mathieu’s dismissal earlier this month, Reid’s found himself surrounded by a batch of freshman defensive backs brimming with talent but lacking in experience. Reid’s drawn the role of mentor, preparing those greenhorns for the field.
“I’m trying to help out and teach those guys, making sure they know what to do and where to line up,” Reid said. “I was in that position when I was a freshman and Brandon Taylor showed me the ropes, so now I’m trying to do that for the next guy.”
And so far, the reports are all positive. Reid said the freshmen are “miles ahead” of where he was at that time, and Shepard credits the students’ success to the credentials of their professor.
“When you have somebody teaching you how to do something the right way, you tend to progress a lot faster,” Shepard said. “Thank God they have someone like him.”
Shepard continued his praise, saying the respect he has for Reid’s play carries over into his character off the field.
“If I ever have a daughter,” Shepard said with a smile, “he’s the type of guy I’d want her to marry.”
Reid came on the scene as a freshman in 2010, playing in all 13 games and starting the final three at strong safety after Taylor went down with an injury against Alabama. Reid’s coming out party came in the Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M when he made seven tackles and an interception he returned 34 yards.
With expectations soaring after his performance in Cowboys Stadium, Reid answered the call as a sophomore. He tied for the team lead with 76 tackles, intercepted a pair of passes, forced two fumbles and earned a spot on the All-SEC second team.
“Eric Reid is everything that’s advertised,” said LSU coach Les Miles after the team’s final preseason scrimmage, one in which Reid made an interception. “Smart players always get there faster. … He knows the play before it gets off and makes a great break on the ball.”
That combination of intelligence and athleticism has made Reid a hot commodity to those eyeing the 2013 NFL draft. Most experts project Reid to land in the first round should he choose to forego his senior season. But Reid refuses to humor reporters inquiring about his professional future and instead focuses on divulging his more modest goals.
“I just want to work hard and help my team,” Reid said. “I need to do the things I need to do to make the team better.”
And one more objective that includes a trip to south Florida.
“Obviously everybody wants to go to the national championship,” Reid said. “So I’m not afraid to say that’s a goal of mine too. We’d like to be in Miami.”
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