LB Lance Reynolds, Jr. Perfect Fit as OL Center

He was signed, sealed and delivered to the Cougars as a highly-regarded Utah prep linebacker, but failed to break the regular game-day player rotation for two years. He welcomed a switch to BYU's offensive line and a year later he's the projected starter at the all-important center position.

Head coach Gary Crowton and his assistants knew Lance Reynolds, Jr., was too good an athlete and potential field general to languish ineffectively on the proverbial pine. They acted on a calculated, collective gut feeling that may pay huge dividends over the next two seasons.

Specifically, they switched Reynolds last season to the offensive side of the ball along with fellow linebacker Moa Peaua, the former Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year, now a senior. One season later, it appears both will start for the Cougars this fall at offensive line center (Reynolds) and fullback (Peaua).

Muted comments and thoughts of nepotism might have been hinted if his father, Lance Reynolds, Sr., was still the BYU offensive line coach and started his inexperienced son at center over far more experienced backups. As it unfolded, Crowton and Reynolds recruited Jeff Grimes, a well-respected offensive line coach from Arizona State during the off-season and Reynolds returned to his former longtime slot as running back coach.

A player-friendly taskmaster, Grimes has seen the best of his linemen up close and Reynolds emerged as the spring game starter and the clear favorite to start at center without any prior game experience.

Reynolds, at 6-3 and 293 pounds, knows he has a big void to fill left by 2003 team captain Scott Jackson.

"When I first moved over," Reynolds said today after the first practice of fall camp, "there was Hanale Vincent and Aaron Acker at center. They are great players and good athletes. We were all working hard fighting for the spot and, I guess, this is the way the cookie crumbled.

"There is a huge difference between being a linebacker and center," said Reynolds. "I had no idea when I switched to center the type of responsibility that I would be putting on my shoulders. I had an idea how quarterbacks do this and that, but I had no idea the quarterback calls the play and the center pretty much tells everyone how to do it."

Reynolds recounted the extreme difficulties: "I remember going to the first couple of meetings with my dad when he was the O-line coach (last season) and I was totally out of it. There is much more responsibility to communicate as a center than as a middle linebacker. As a linebacker, you're kind of a silent leader that calls the plays and then you run it. As a center, you're communicating the whole time. It's constantly reading the defense and calling the plays." he continued.

The tasks and challenges are real, demanding and unforgiving if you make mistakes. "I feel like I'm finally getting to the point where everything makes sense to me. Now, I just have to make sure I know every little thing and every situation. You can learn one play, but the next day see it again a bit differently and not know what you're doing. You have to make sure you see it against every single defense that can be run at you," he added.

All this and snapping the football to the quarterback seamlessly on virtually all offensive plays of the game. Now he is simply concentrating on details.

As important as his development as the team's center is the trust, cohesiveness and camaraderie among the offensive linemen now going at it daily against Bronco Mendenhall's unpredictable swarm defense.

"I love these guys," said Reynolds. "Me and Scott Young have grown really close. We've been lifting together and spending a little time together, and I feel really confident with all the guys that are rotating in with the first group. If I had to hand pick them, I would choose these guys."

Speaking about his position-mates, Reynolds said, "They're smart and they understand that when I make a call, they know what to do. For me, it's just that initial read of seeing where people (defenders) are flowing to, where the coverages are going, and then at the last second, make the right call – especially with our defense that's always moving around.

"It's a jungle because you'll get something set and then right before the snap the whole defensive front, formation and coverage will change, and then you're looking at something totally different. That's when I'll make a call really quick to change for the adjustment. That is why it looks like someone is coming in free because we just couldn't communicate it fast enough, but we're getting better," Reynolds noted.

Even against a tough schedule that includes defending national champion USC, Notre Dame and Stanford, Reynolds stated that if he had to go to battle, he would hand pick his teammates playing alongside him.

"I couldn't be more confident. I would definitely pick the guys I'm with right now," Reynolds commented. "I love ‘em and there are great guys. They work hard and that's the biggest thing. Scott Young, Eddie Keele, Jake Kuresa, (Brian) Sanders and the other guys are just putting in the effort and have the attitude we need to be good.

"It's hard coming off a season like we had last year, but I happy with the work ethic and the attitude we had over the summer with leaders that stepped up in John Beck and Brandon Heaney. I feel the attitude is great right now and I'm very confident going into the season. I don't have any doubt in my mind we can run the table if we play well," a cautiously confident Reynolds said.

When asked about the weight gain transition from linebacker to now solid and stocky frame, he said, "It's awesome. How can it be bad going from 245 pounds (linebacker) when I got married to 293 pounds now? I was 260 when I was a linebacker. When I got married, I gained that initial bit of weight and then they switched me over. It was like my body was fighting it, just waiting to be released. I'm excited about it and it's been a great move for me to move over and get some playing time."

Reynolds said "I'm at 293 right now. I haven't ran the forty since I put on this weight, but I ran it when I was at 260 at 4.68 or a 4.7 flat," he said. "I don't know what I run now, but we just got done benching a little while ago and I benched 460. Scott (Young) is around 530 or 540. Eddie Keele is right about with me at around 460. Jake (Kuresa) and Ofa (Mohetau) are about 430. We've got a lot of guys that are pushing some serious weight. I look around the weight room and if we get our ducks in a row, we're going to play well.

"I have no doubt in my mind that we can be a great football team. I feel like we are closer this year, by far, than we have been the last two years," Reynolds noted.

After being sidelined following the first play of the Blue & White spring game with a badly sprained ankle, Reynolds made sure he was appropriately taped up for the first day of fall practice.

"I got the regular tape job, then a heavy duty tape job and an ankle brace on top of that just to make sure I keep the inflammation down," Reynolds said with a smile. "The tendons aren't torn at all and there is no injury to my ankle at all. I had just sprained my ankle a little bit, but now I'm 100 percent."

Of his new position coach, Reynolds raves: "Coach Grimes is great. Working with my dad, I had no idea he knew so much about football. Obviously, he's been doing it for 20-21 years. When coach Grimes came in, we had learned the stuff we needed to learn about the plays and what we needed to be doing.

"He's (Grimes) a great motivator. He came in and he kind of kicked us in the butt every play. That's what we needed because we already knew what to do. We just didn't know how to do it yet. When he came in, it was a perfect fit. I don't think there's anybody who is a better fit for us," Reynolds concluded.

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