Next up in our 2023 UW Recruiting Profile series is Curley Reed out of Lake Charles College Prep, LA. I was planning on running through our DL class after wrapping up our OL class (check out my breakdown of ‘23 OL commits Elishah Jackett, Zachary Henning, Landen Hatchett, and Soane Faasolo, as well as the rest of our Recruiting Notebook Series), but after landing yet another top dawg in this class, I’ll pivot and run through our top rated commits to date.
You read that right. We just landed a blue chip recruit out of Louisiana. I won’t dwell on that fact too long because every writer that covered Curley Reed’s commitment, and their brother, has emphasized it enough. What I’m more interested in is in Reed as a player.
The Lake Charles College Prep product is the latest to claim their spot as UW’s highest rated commit in the young DeBoer era, and his claim is all about his ceiling. Reed earned his spot as our top recruit and the #2 CB in the talent rich state of Louisiana based on a long frame and noticeable athleticism. Landing somewhere between his self-reported 6’2” and the 247sports listed 6’1”, Reed has prototypical height and length for a multi-positional DB, and there’s a chance that he’s still growing since both of those listings date back to his sophomore year. Outside of size, Coach Juice has also emphasized adding speed to his DB room, and Reed brings it in spades. I couldn’t find verified testing numbers, but I did find his sophomore year track and field PR in the 400m dash was 52.27 seconds, which would’ve qualified him for 4A states in Washington. It’s tough to translate that to the 40-yard dash, but it does somewhat validate the closing speed that shows on tape.
One important note for Reed that explains why testing results and tape are so hard to come by is that he was largely sidelined during his junior season due to a torn ACL that was suffered at the beginning of his season. I haven’t been able to find any updates on his recovery, and I won’t speculate, but I’m sure that the staff has done their due diligence and with nearly a full year since the injury, there shouldn’t be much projection in their evaluation of his recovery.
Tape & On-Field Performance
As far as his tape goes, we’ll have to rely heavily on his sophomore year tape for evaluations. After watching his hudl tape once through, I made note of the number of tackles against the run that were on his highlights. Now for DBs, usually you’d expect to see a bunch of interceptions and coverage reps on their highlight reel, but its always refreshing to see a DB emphasize his willingness to get dirty and make a tackle (much like a RB showing off his blocking skills). That being said, after looking up his sophomore year stats, he didn’t have too many stat-worthy coverage reps to show with only 1 pick that season. I’m not grading him down for that because of his youth. Most young CBs are still adjusting to the speed of the game and route recognition that is the basis for most plays on the ball.
On my second pass through his tape, now looking for some of the finer points of his game, I noticed two key traits. First, I noticed his agility and fluidity in transition. What I mean by that is he has the ability to seamlessly transition from squaring up with a WR at the LOS into a backpedal, then flip his hips to run with the WR, then sink his hips and match the WR at the route break. Such agility and fluidity while keeping eye and hand discipline to track the WR is critical for sticky coverage at the next level. Most young CBs have a hard enough time turning, running, and the breaking with the route, so its rare to have a CB recruit who seemingly understands the finer points of the position like keeping his WR-side hand on the nearside hip to feel for the break while using his eyes to start scanning for the ball.
The other trait that I noticed from Reed was his actual tackling. Outside of his willingness to make the tackle (which was already evident in my first pass through his tape), Reed showed an innate awareness of where the ball was on the field at all times. On the third play of his hudl tape, Reed uses the same hand-on-hip trailing coverage technique I described above to allow him to scan the field and immediately recognize that the WR was running him away from the point of attack on a run play. He didn’t bite on the action and immediately peeled off to make the tackle in the backfield in space.
His tackling is also where Reed’s speed and athleticism show itself the most. Sometimes, even though his play awareness is solid, he takes poor angles to the ball. That can be coached up, but what can’t be coached is his ability to compensate for those bad angles with his closing speed and wide tackle radius thanks to his length. That speed advantage will lessen at the next level, so development in that aspect of his game, as well as an emphasis on tackling through the torso rather than to the chest will help him avoid embarrassment by the more powerfully built RBs and WRs that he’ll face in the future.
Fit, Position & Projection
I can see Reed projecting either as our next Sidney Jones or Keith Taylor at CB or as a Jojo McIntosh type of safety, depending heavily on his continued rehab and development. Coach Morrell and Coach Juice’s coverage schemes rely heavily on an aggressive Quarters coverage (Cover 4) and press Cover 3. Both coverages place a premium on CBs who can play aggressive and physical press techniques to take away the modern spread offense’s quick passing game. A DB like Reed who has the length and agility to lock down WRs at the line is exactly the type of DB that Mark Dantonio and Pat Narduzzi dominated the Big Ten with when they first introduced this style of defense.
UW’s had success with similar CBs under our old staff, and I can see a scenario where Reed lands at CB and the staff takes a page out of the old staff’s book to get him early playing time. Prior to earning a full-time starting role, Keith Taylor served as a situational nickel or dime DB that was brought in as a match up eraser to cover jumbo slots and receiving TEs instead of giving that assignment to our then-nickel now-husky who might have a size or speed match up issue.
Another option, and in my opinion his highest upside position, is at safety or Husky. Now there will be some who think that it’d be a waste of his talents for him to play at safety or Husky, but those roles may be the best fit for where his talents are right now. Instead of being a solid press corner who might need time to further develop his coverage skills and explosiveness, Reed has the skills to be an elite Husky. As a refresher, the Husky is this staff’s version of the old nickel DB spot that is a hybrid safety/slot corner. There is no prototypical athletic profile for the Husky, but as I learned from the staff themselves, the Husky will need to be someone that can handle being more involved in the run game than a CB, be tasked with more man and underneath zone coverage than a safety, and also be able to play safety when defensive adjustments roll the safeties/husky to match the offensive formation.
Reed’s size and willingness/ability to find and tackle the ball carrier were the two things that stood out to me on tape, and a move to the Husky position will best utilize those traits. As we saw with Budda Baker and Taylor Rapp, the closer you are to the ball, the easier it is for you to make a play, and both terrorized offenses rotating between safety and the slot. The Husky is our new way to get guys with those skill sets in position to make those plays. Even if he lands in a full-time safety role, his skill set would translate well in a Jojo McIntosh type of safety role where he’s relied upon less as a rangey coverage safety and more as a stalwart “last line of defense” tackler.
Although he isn’t a sure thing given his injury history and limited sample size for us to analyze, there’s tons to be excited about with Curley Reed now in the fold. Whether its All-Conference hopes at CB, safety, or Husky, Reed has the tools to succeed and a system fit that will elevate him as far as he wants to take himself.