Diron Reynolds finding his way with Sooners

Tough to replace someone so likable as Jerry Montgomery was, but Diron Reynolds is off to good start in Norman.

Oklahoma defensive end Charles Tapper didn’t beat around the bush about it. When he heard Jerry Montgomery was leaving the Sooners for a spot in the NFL, he cried.

He wasn’t just disappointed. It shook him to his core. Tapper wasn’t alone. Montgomery only spent two seasons in Norman, but the impact he made was incredible.

On the field, off the field, Montgomery was everything OU was hoping for and more when the Sooners were able to lure him away from Michigan.

You could argue Lincoln Riley has the toughest job at OU, trying to change the offensive style and return the Sooners to their glory days under Bob Stoops.

However, it’s no picnic for Diron Reynolds right now. The first-year defensive line coach has huge shoes to fill. With only a handful of practices in the books, he’s off to a good start.

“He’s a very laidback coach and wants to get the finer techniques down,” Tapper said. “He’s a very smart guy, and he knows what he’s talking about. If we all buy in… He has a Super Bowl ring. That’s what we all strive to get. If we all buy in and listen to what he has to say, he can’t steer us the wrong way.”

Reynolds has a wealth of NFL experience, having coaching in some capacity in the league for more than a decade before heading to Stanford last season.

What Reynolds lacks in college experience, he is more than making up with that knowledge of what it takes to be successful at the next level, the ultimate level of football.

It’s one huge reason OU coach Bob Stoops looked in Reynolds’ direction when searching for Montgomery’s replacement. Now with Reynolds in the fold, OU is starting to see what it had heard so much about.

“He’s a tremendous person, No. 1, he has great knowledge,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “Your pedigree makes you who you are as a coach, and he’s got a great pedigree. The guys he has been around have all been first class.

“The calls I got from different NFL guys were pretty amazing. Guys will just call to sing Diron’s praises, and these are guys I respect and guys that have coached at a very high level so it was just a perfect fit for us and hopefully we can grow together.”

Reynolds has a lot of talent to work with, but a lot of unproven talent, too. OU is having to replace starters Chuka Ndulue and Jordan Phillips on the defensive line with a line that isn’t 100 percent set at either a 3-4 front or a 4-3 front.

But it’s hard to not get excited for OU when looking at somebody like a Charles Walker. Fully healthy after an injury his redshirt freshman season, the time sure feels like it’s now for Walker. Reynolds will be there to guide him.

“He understands,” Walker said. “When we mess up certain things, he understands that little thing we’re supposed to do. When we’re in film, he goes back and shows the older guys, shows everybody.”

Reynolds isn’t Montgomery, but the key thing has been he’s not trying to be, either. He’s bringing in his own twist on things. He’s building off things Montgomery ingrained into his players. Walker said Reynolds isn’t afraid to challenge the group.

“Just to let the past go,” said Walker about his personal challenge from Reynolds. “Strive. Just work as hard as I can even when it’s getting hard, getting tough – to push through.”

The one added benefit with Reynolds is the knowledge he has gained of not just the defensive line but the entire defense.

“He understands the secondary and he understands the whole 11 and the D-line guys don’t always understand that,” Mike Stoops said. “He understands the way it all fits together.”

Reynolds was well-liked in his one year in Palo Alto. He seems ready for the challenge. It’s not always sunshine and roses for a first-year coach. There is usually that awkward adjustment period.

You ask the players, and Reynolds is finding his stride early.

“It’s like Coach Mont never left,” Walker said.

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