Converted linebacker finds niche at tackle

Anthony Maggio

A week and a half before Minnesota’s football team began the season at Toledo, redshirt freshman linebacker Darrell Reid sat down with the coaching staff to talk about his future.

The coaches had decided to move Reid to defensive tackle, a position he had never played. Reid, who calls himself a linebacker at heart, was nervous about the change.

“Initially he didn’t want to make the move,” defensive line coach Tom Sims said. “But he’s going to be a 280, 290-pound kid. And you don’t see too many linebackers at 280, 290 pounds.”

Coach Glen Mason said he began looking at the possibility of moving Reid to tackle last spring.

Reid, who came out of spring practice second on the depth chart at linebacker, didn’t think he would fit the mold of a defensive lineman initially.

“I don’t look like a defensive tackle,” Reid said. “I must be the smallest starting defensive tackle in the Big Ten.”

Going by depth charts, Reid, listed at 6-foot-3 and 238 pounds, is the smallest starter at tackle in the Big Ten. In fact, he’s the smallest of all back-ups as well.

However, Reid weighed in at 253 pounds on Monday, which puts him at next-to-smallest behind Indiana starting tackle Kemp Rasmussen (6-foot-3, 251 pounds).

All of this goes without mentioning he is one of the youngest starters as well. The 19-year-old Reid redshirted last season and earned MVP of the defensive demonstration team – at linebacker.

No one, however, can argue with his production thus far. Reid is second among linemen with 11 tackles, along with one sack and two deflected passes in the first three games.

But he’s still just getting used to the position.

“It’s still a lot for me to learn,” Reid said. “My technique has to get a lot better before I can be the player the coaches want me to be, the player I feel I can be myself and the player my team needs me to be.”

The scary thing for opponents is Reid has only been at tackle for a little over a month. He’s also just developing a taste for his new position.

“At first, I didn’t feel that it was the best thing for me,” Reid said. “The coaches suggested it awhile ago, but I wasn’t comfortable in my heart moving from linebacker. But slowly and surely, it’s beginning to grow on me.”

The irony in Reid’s move stems back to his high school days. Reid, a New Jersey native, was recruited by many Big East schools, but they all talked about moving him to defensive line.

Reid, who played linebacker throughout high school, chose Minnesota because it was one of the only schools recruiting him to stay at his natural position.

The Gophers are now seeing what all those Big East schools saw in the young Reid.

“I’ve always really thought that Darrell would outgrow the linebacker position,” Mason said. “Especially with the things we’re doing, he’ll be good as a defensive lineman.”

Linebacker or tackle, it doesn’t matter to Reid as long as he’s helping the team on the field.

“I’m more about whatever is better for the team,” Reid said. “Obviously the move is better for the team if I can be on the field. Linebacker second team? Nobody wants to be a second teamer when you can be a starter no matter where you’re at.”

 

Anthony Maggio covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]