Reynolds developing "it" factor

The string of tight end success at BYU is long and well recognized. The success of previous Cougar tight ends has lured many top prospects to BYU to be a part of that tradition. New tight end coach Lance Reynolds knows he has the talent in the fold, but now wants to develop a side to the position that's been lacking in recent years.

When assistant head coach Lance Reynolds was moved from running back coach to tight end coach, many Cougar fans questioned the move. Thoughts of "Can he coach the tight ends?" were mentioned in slight undertones in message boards posts everywhere.

"You wouldn't think so, because I used to coach them all the time when Norm [Chow] was here," Reynolds recalled. "When Norm was here, we used to meet all together. The tight ends, the wide receivers and the running backs all met together in the same room. During practice when Norm was calling the plays and kind of busy, he would point and I would go over and correct everybody. So really, I've coached a little bit of everything, so that's kind of how it started."

Even going back to when Coach Reynolds was a high school football player, he had a natural ability to understand the game of football. All the seams just naturally come together for Reynolds to form a tapestry of complete understanding. Simply put, Coach Reynolds has a gift and was born to coach.

"When I was a young player in high school, I remember a sophomore coach was meeting with us early in the morning," recalled Reynolds. "He sat down with us as this little sophomore football team and started explaining the size of the field and the rules. We met every day for like a month for a couple of hours. Then you know, all of a sudden things started making sense to me.

"I understood, 'Okay, this is what I want to do and do in certain situations.' I then understood why I'm doing it and it just changed my whole outlook on how to play. So I think a lot of times you see guys not play like they ought to. It's not always the case, but I would say most of the time it's a lack of understanding of what they need to do to be really good, because everyone wants to be good. Everybody always talks about, 'Oh, they wanted it more.' Well, that might be the case sometimes, but the other part of it is you have to know how to do it. That's the difference!"

So, the reality is that Coach Reynolds can coach a lot of positions, and do it better than most realize. It's why Coach Doman had complete confidence in him and asked him to coach up a position that needed the extra attention. If anyone is going to help rapidly strengthen a position group, Coach Reynolds is the man to do it.

"It's been awesome!" said sophomore tight end Devin Mahina. "I've really learned a lot about the offense over the past couple of weeks. Coach Reynolds has broken down the tight end position much like Coach Cahoon has done with the receivers. We now practice our routees against each defensive coverage, and that was something we didn't do a lot of last year, but when we did it I've notice a big, big difference in how I now run my routees now."

Last season the tight ends did not have the impact that Cougar tight ends typically do, even failing to account for a single touchdown.

"We lost some guys the year before, and they had their stuff together, and they were some good players," Reynolds said. "I think after they left we dropped off a big chunk, but we're trying to make that next big step up for these guys.

"I think they were kind of in a struggle a little bit last year, so we have some ground that we're trying to make up. That's where some of the struggle has been now. We're trying to reinstall some confidence, some pride and some execution things that need to go on."

Both cerebral in his craft and a great communicator with the ability to transfer football knowledge, Coach Reynolds understands the formula to help players succeed.

"With a unique understanding of the game, then with that comes confidence, and with confidence comes aggression," Reynolds said. "Then with aggression comes more confidence. Then you see those guys strutting around like they've got it all together, and most of the time they do, like in the NFL or in the NBA. They have their stuff together and know what's going on athletically, having I.Q. skills. When they have the talent combined with the I.Q. skills, then with that comes the 'it' factor."

"I have a better understanding of what needs to be done in certain routes now," Mahina said. "When we practice certain plays, we've been focusing on how to get to a position in a coverage and why we do it. Last year, we didn't do as good of a job as we should of with those things. Coach Reynolds does a lot with our feet. Having good footwork is really important to him. He wants us to be slippery by being smart."

The biggest coaching advantage Reynolds will give to his tight ends is a greater cache of football knowledge. When Mahina was asked what one thing Coach Reynolds has done to help him improve as an athlete, Mahina quickly replied: "Knowledge – he's given me greater knowledge, because we can't just go out there and do our thing. We have to actually know what we are doing. He said the most important time is when we are in the classroom. Then when we come out onto the field, that's when we apply it."

Reynolds said he is aiming to help his players get "it together and know what the game's about, know where they're supposed to go, know the steps to hit, where their hands need to be, and have it all together and have the confidence to do it," said Coach Reynolds. "So to me, that's how a coach should marry with a player to consciously achieve a greater result, and once you do that it should just spring from inside them and it gets easier. A lot of people talk about different things, but to me that is key one."

"During our team meetings, Coach Reynolds said, 'We're going to be playing Ole Miss, Florida State, Texas and all those ACC and SEC teams.'" Mahina said. "He said, 'They're definitely going to be more athletic than you guys, but what's more important is position mastery.' You know, that you understand how to do your routes, how to stem your guy to widen him so you can better get to the hole on those athletes. That's what's going to allow us to get those catches and beat those teams."

Still, Coach Reynolds understands that they also have to have great athletes, and that execution isn't the only factor in the equation.

"Now always, great athletes flavor the punch," said Coach Reynolds. "They always make a difference. Some of those guys can almost feel their way through. Still though, even if you check the great basketball players like Kobe Bryant, he is a great athlete but he is one skilled guy that understands the game. When you put all that together, then you have one nasty dude. That's the key, and as a coach that's what you would like to develop."

But is that what BYU has with this current group of tight ends? Coach Reynolds seems to think so.

"Oh yeah, these guys will have that," he said. "And it's fun too to have a chance to grow and make a difference. To me it's fun. It's a lot of fun."

"[Reynolds] said that when we are done with spring ball, he wants us to be great athletes that are able to coach the tight end position," Mahina said with a smile. "That's how much we have on our shoulders to learn this offense, our positions and the little things that give us the edge. It's a big difference this year."

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