OXFORD

The wait is over for Otis Reese.

With three regular season football games remaining, games that may or may not be played depending on how COVID-19 cases and contact tracing go, the Georgia transfer has been declared eligible at Ole Miss.

The school made the announcement Friday, and Reese celebrated with an open date Saturday since the Rebels’ game against Texas A&M was postponed.

As the NCAA passed out eligibility like candy during this COVID season Reese, a four-star recruit and the Georgia high school defensive player of the year when he signed with his home state Bulldogs in the 2018 class never received his.

Frustrated Ole Miss fans continually asked why. “Free Otis Reese” became such a popular saying I thought “Free” was his first name.

The NCAA doesn’t answer such questions, and Ole Miss made only a passing reference to it in its news release saying Reese’s initial waiver request was denied and that a second one, submitted on different “grounds,” was approved.

Reese’s absence was frustrating for Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin in the preseason and early weeks of the regular season when he watched a player he called one of the best on his team, a definite starter, remain idle.

Complicating matters was that Reese, an outside linebacker in high school and defensive back in college, plays on the side of the ball that desperately needed his help.

Maybe now he can help.

Maybe.

It’s unrealistic to think a player that has sat out for two-thirds of the season will turn a bad defense into an average one overnight.

The No. 1 reason players transfer is playing time, and if you’re not getting playing time you most likely have under-produced in the eyes of your coach.

Reese played in 25 games in his two seasons at Georgia. He had 16 tackles, 13 of which came his freshman season.

Just the facts mam.

In late September Reese in an open letter to the NCAA and SEC pleaded for his eligibility and alleged racism at Georgia directed at others and himself, events that he said “took a devastating mental toll” on him.

Maybe those events contributed to Reese not developing more on the field.

Clearly Kiffin sees a very high ceiling for Reese.

It will be interesting to see how Reese has progressed in practice this season and how he might help an Ole Miss team that is trending up in spite of its defense not because of it.

For now if Reese can make a few plays that force the other guys to punt that’s a huge bonus. More will be expected of him in 2021.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for The Daily Journal. Find more on Facebook in “Ole Miss Discussion w/Parrish Alford.”

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