Transfer Reese practicing like a returner, gelling with Gators O-line
Before Ethan White, there was Stewart Reese.
By now, most Florida fans know White’s success story of dropping nearly 60 pounds to start as a freshman after enrolling at 393 pounds.
He’s not the first lineman who transformed his body with the help of UF strength coach Nick Savage and offensive line coach John Hevesy. When both were at Mississippi State in 2016, Reese reported to campus in the same weight range as White.
“Stewart both came to me at about 390-something pounds,” Hevesy recalled Tuesday, “and ended up playing at about 330 within the year. … You saw the same thing from (former MSU lineman) Tyrie Phillips, from Stewart Reese out of high school that I saw in Ethan.
“So you say, ‘Here’s this large body, we just gotta get it down.’ And obviously our strength staff does a great job with that to reform those bodies. … I've had plenty of experience with those big guys to drop their weight and get it out.”
Reese started 33 consecutive games for the Bulldogs, including his entire redshirt freshman season and the first seven games of 2019. He decided to transfer to Florida in May for his final year of eligibility, reuniting with Dan Mullen, Hevesy and Savage.
“He understands what we expect in the program, so that’s not a shock for him. There’s no change there,” Mullen said of adding Reese. “It’s been two years since he has kind of run the system and we’ve tweaked some things, but I think there’s a lot of familiarity and he’s played a lot of football.
“A double-team is a double-team block, you know what I mean? … I think it’s coming back to him pretty quickly, which is great and a little different than a regular grad transfer because it’s a guy who has played in the system before.”
Left tackle Stone Forsythe could tell from the moment Reese started practicing with the Gators in fall camp. Even though Reese is a transfer, Forsythe still sees him as a returner because he has played for Mullen and Hevesy before.
“He already knew all the plays,” Forsythe said of Reese. “He knew the technique and everything, so he just kind of picked up where he left off. Just little adjustments here and there with certain stuff throughout the practice that he had to adjust to. But, I mean, he'll help us greatly this year.”
Reese started at right tackle for Mullen and former MSU coach Joe Moorhead in 2018, but switched to right guard last year. The 6-foot-5, 360-pound lineman has been taking reps at both spots for the Gators in practice.
In addition to his versatility, Hevesy credited Reese for gelling with the team and being a leader at his position.
“As big as he is, he's a very versatile guy,” Hevesy said. “He’s able to do both, so it's a good thing for us to have. It's a good problem. I think the one thing with him just bringing in his personality is there’s no ego with Stewart at all. … Within two weeks, he knows everybody, he's friends with everybody and everybody likes him.
“He’s started for three years in this league, so he can give the kids that haven't played behind him even more stories. … With having a lot of young guys, they can watch him because he doesn't have an ego to say, ‘I’m here for this, I'm here for that.’ They can talk to him, and he'll talk. He’ll give them everything he’s got so they can learn from him, which has been great to have.”