Reynolds a Fixture at RT

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – It wasn't that long ago that Garrett Reynolds trotted out on the Kenan Stadium Field as a wide-eyed freshman against Wisconsin. Now, as a savvy veteran, the senior right tackle is the lynchpin of North Carolina's offensive line.

The 6-foot-7, 310-pounder, the nephew of NFL great Jack "Hacksaw" Reynolds, remembers thinking that he was going to red-shirt in 2005 before being told that he would play against the Badgers on primetime television.

"I just got in my playbook and made sure I was sound with everyone else," Reynolds said, laughing. "My technique wasn't there yet and I struggled with a lot of things, but there were a lot of positive things and I learned fast from it."

Things have changed dramatically on the offensive line since that 14-5 loss on Sept. 17th, most notably the quantity and quality of talent across the board. Gone are the days that 250-pound true freshmen are thrown out on the field to defend top-25 caliber defensive ends on the edge.

Offensive line coach Sam Pittman consists of two fifth-year players in Bryon Bishop and Calvin Darity and three fourth-year players in Reynolds, Kyle Jolly and Aaron Stahl. The second unit is made up of three-third year players and two-second year players.

Reynolds has started 19 games at right tackle in his career, and posted a team-best 88 percent grade last season to go along with a team-high 51 knockdowns blocks. With his experience and his production, as well as his country-boy politeness, it's obvious to see why the other offensive linemen are drawn to the Knoxville, Tenn. product.

"It's a big team, but one thing that I know that we can take care of is how our offensive line works," Reynolds said. "We're with the guys at practice all of the time, so we can focus on making sure they finish each play, finishing through the drill, paying attention to detail and just really doing what they can to help us get better. We know what everybody in that room can do – we've been around each other enough – so if somebody is tired or gassed, then we can see and tell them to pick it up."

But age and experience doesn't exempt the upperclassmen from being corrected by their teammates.

"It's not just the upperclassmen leading the younger guys," Reynolds said. "The more leaders you've got in a group, the better. Everybody can lead someone else. It's just like a chain – you're pulling everybody along. If I'm doing something wrong, then we've given them permission to say, ‘Hey, that's not right.' And the same goes off the field and in the classroom."

It's that approach, that willingness and ability to help each other out, that has built substantial depth across the front line while educating the new faces in the mix.

"As you get older, you know the technique almost as good as the coaches, because the coaches have taught you everything they know," Reynolds said. "And if you really listen and you're a student of the game, you can turn around and coach these guys while the coach is over there coaching other guys. It helps out your depth a lot."

Reynolds spoke highly of all of the young players on the line, mentioning positive things about true freshman Jon Cooper and red-shirt freshmen Cam Holland and Mike Dykes. But the senior just shook his head and smiled when he was asked about red-shirt freshman left tackle Carl Gaskins.

"[Gaskins] has got some of the quickest, most natural moves," Reynolds said. "He's just so explosive and he's such a quick player, that he can be outstanding. That's one guy that really focusing on his technique right now and he's come a long way. He's just got to be confident in becoming consistent… But he's got so much potential that he's going to be a great player."

With less than 10 days remaining before the season opener against McNeese State, Reynolds indicated that the team is slowly shifting gears to begin preparations for what expects to be an interesting fall, at the least.

"About this time, camp is pretty much over, and we're almost into the weekly routine," Reynolds said. "We've been watching film all summer, so we just really want to kick it in and key in on certain things that we're looking for… The physical part is done. You've shown that you can hit and play physical, and now it's about perfecting that and being able to do that every day."

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