One of the more highly debated topics coming into camp dealt with the middle linebacker position.
Reynolds started last year at Sam, so most figured he would stay there. But due to his strong play so far in camp, coupled with some minor injuries to the other two candidates, Reynolds is the man in the middle right now.
"I've been taking all the reps with the ones at Mike and Bobby Carpenter has been playing Sam and A.J. (Hawk) has been on the other side," Reynolds said. "I really like playing Mike. I feel like I'm able to play it and I think I'll be maybe ever better than Matt Wilhelm if they put me in there."
Reynolds (6-3, 250, Sr.) obviously has a lot of confidence to make a statement like that.
"I feel real comfortable in there," he said. "I got to play a little bit there last year, so I got a little taste of it. I feel like I can make plays, and I just feel real comfortable in there."
Reynolds was one of the top linebackers in the nation coming out of high school. His position in the prep ranks? Middle linebacker.
"Yeah, coming out of high school that was my spot," Reynolds said. "I like it there. With the D-line we have, I can just run free without having to worry about any offensive linemen getting up on me. I feel really comfortable at Mike. I would like the coaches to give me the chance to play it."
Although Reynolds feels that MLB is his natural position, he says he did not lobby for the job coming into camp.
"No, I didn't push for it," he said. "I came into camp knowing that I was the No. 1 Sam linebacker and if they were going to give me the opportunity in camp to play Mike, I was willing and wanting to take that opportunity."
Although D'Andrea is nursing a knee injury and Pagac pulled a hamstring, both players are expected to return soon. When they do, Reynolds isn't sure if he will stay at Mike. He wants to, but is not sure how the coaches feel.
"I haven't talked to the coaches about that yet," he said. "It's something I need to discuss with them and see where I am on that question. But it's just a matter of time before we know what's going to happen. It just all depends on what the coaches think is best for the team."
Reynolds doesn't think that D'Andrea and Pagac will be very far behind when they return to the practice field.
"Maybe a little bit, but I feel like those guys are smart players and I feel like they're learning through my mistakes if they're watching me," Reynolds said. "It might set them back since they're not in there getting all the reps I am, but mentally they should be able to step in there any time when they get healthy."
Reynolds and D'Andrea have struck up a pretty good friendship over the last year and Reynolds knows his buddy is chomping at the bit right now.
"I've been rooming with Mike, so he was hoping and pushing to be back for our scrimmage on Saturday," he said. "But it's all up to what the doctors think. Mike would be out there right now if they let him."
The Ohio State defensive coaches have said over and over again that the middle linebacker needs to be the "playmaker" of the group. He needs to be someone who can take on the fullback in the hole, but he also needs to fly sideline-to-sideline and track down running backs. Reynolds was asked what skills make him a good Mike.
"I think I might bring a little bit of quickness and speed there," he said. "A little bit more than Matt Wilhelm did. But, Matt was a smart player and that's what got him to where he was at and where he's at now. If I can pick up the defense like he did, I feel like I'll be OK."
Reynolds talked about his speed, but isn't sure what is 40 time is right now.
"I haven't been timed since I was a freshman, so I really don't know. But I have excellent game speed," he said with a laugh.
Reynolds bulked up quite a bit in the offseason. He is listed at 242 pounds, but says that is not exactly accurate.
"I am a little bit bigger than that," he said. "I put some weight on in the offseason. I'm close to 250 right now. I played at 235 last year."
Was putting on that extra 15 pounds one of his goals?
"No, I just worked out same as I did in the past and just kept on eating the same and I just got bigger through time."
Reynolds likes the NCAA's new rules that limit on the amount of two-a-days in camp. He feels fresher than the last few years at this time.
"I've liked it, because it's given us more recovery time and we're not beating on each other as much as we have in the past," he said. "But I know the coaches think that we should be getting more done right now. I don't think there is any coach in the country that thinks it's a good idea what the NCAA has done."
Although there has been less hitting than in years past during camp, the Bucks still have the usual allotment of minor injuries.
"It's just camp," Reynolds said. "Everybody's got bumps and bruises and nicks right now. I feel by the time camp's over, we'll be pretty healthy."
Reynolds was asked what is the team missing out on with the new practice format. Could fewer practices make the Bucks look a little sloppy in the early stages of the season?
"With more practices, there are more times to work on different skills because this is a time when you perfect different techniques and stuff," Reynolds said. "But it's good for us mentally to pick up a lot of things that we wouldn't have time to when we were just out there practicing a lot. I don't think it will affect us because we've got a veteran team."
One of the things the Buckeye linebackers have been working on so far in camp is playing multiple positions. Reynolds says they are all basically interchangeable in Ohio State's system.
"When you play one of those linebacker positions, you can play all three," he said. "And one defense or another defense, you might be doing the same thing. Like the Mike will be doing the same thing that the Sam will be doing, and Sam would be doing the same thing a Will would be doing, just on the other side. So, I feel like if you can play one, you can play all three."
Reynolds gave us some insight on defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio's scheme. He says Dantonio is the master of mixing things up and trying to confuse the offense.
"Shifting guys around really messes with the offensive line and really messes with the quarterback," Reynolds said. "They're thinking, ‘No. 44 is lined up on the right side and whenever he walks up there he's going to blitz.' We show them the right and bring the left. A.J. will be blitzing on the left.
"I feel like we are going to be rotating around different positions this year. I might be lined up on the left and they'll be thinking A.J. is going to come, and then I come. So, it really messes with the offense."
The OSU defense prides itself on setting the tone early in each game. Dantonio is a genius when it comes to halftime adjustments, but Reynolds says the plan is actually to make the opposing offense adjust to the Buckeye defense.
"I feel like we can dictate," he said. "If they think we are going to do one thing, we'll do the other. I feel like in our scheme, we can kind of dictate what we want to do with whatever formation they give us. We shouldn't have to adjust to them, they should adjust to us."
Overall, the OSU defense has a lot of versatility. A lot of players can play multiple positions.
"Yeah, I feel like we've got guys that can play anywhere," Reynolds said. "Dustin (Fox) can play safety or corner, Darrion (Scott) can play end, or nose tackle, or whatever you want. We have a lot of guys that are versatile that can do a lot of different things."
Reynolds has been a heavy contributor on special teams since his first year in Columbus. He doesn't do as much as he used to, but is still a key player on the kick teams.
"Right now, I'm on punt team and field goal block," he said. "That's what I did last year. My freshman and sophomore year I was on every special team. My freshman year I was our long-snapper, but I kind of got out of that because I wanted to just concentrate on playing linebacker. But I can still long snap. I think I'm our third long-snapper if they ever need me. That's a skill that I want to keep because I think if I can perfect that, that will be something that will help me make it to the NFL."
Reynolds says he enjoys special teams as much as linebacker.
"Oh yeah. I'm on the punt team and our outlook on the punt team is that the punt is the most important play. It can either make or break a game. And so I feel lucky enough to be one of the best 11 and be on the punt team."