The cupboard is far from bare, and Reynolds has plenty of talent to coach up and bring out their potential while he’s in Norman.
Off the field, however, is a completely different story. Nobody was calling for former coach Jerry Montgomery to leave. Players, fans were excited about Montgomery being promoted to co-defensive coordinator in January.
His departure from OU to the Green Bay Packers was a huge one. Montgomery had only been on campus for two years, but he had made his impact. Reynolds, who has been away from the college game for years, was going to have some tough shoes to fill.
Those shoes would only be tighter if Reynolds let that line of thinking cloud his vision. Reynolds can’t be Montgomery. He can’t worry about Montgomery. So far, he hasn’t, and it’s why the first couple of months for Reynolds have been so successful.
“I don’t worry about that kind of stuff,” Reynolds said. “All I can do is be me. Been told a long time ago you can’t be anybody else. Just be the best you that you can be.”
That’s what Reynolds has done. Known for his calm demeanor, the biggest thing Reynolds has in his back pocket is the wealth of NFL experience.
With more than 10 years at the next level, there’s nobody at OU right now more qualified to preach about what it’s going to take to make it to the NFL and to succeed when you get there. In other words, let his experience do the talking.
“They (players) saw what I brought to the table,” Reynolds said. “Turn on the tape, show them the techniques. Show them what we want, show the pro guys I’ve coached in the past on tape – hard to say the technique isn’t right.”
It still remains to be seen the type of impact Reynolds will make on the recruiting trail. Initial responses have been positive from those who have been in touch with him, but there’s no telling how Reynolds will adapt to the 24/7 environment of recruiting.
With the players on campus, it’s clear that has been no drop going from Montgomery to Reynolds.
“Coach Reynolds came in and put the finishing touches on us, making sure we get it down,” defensive lineman Charles Walker said.
Reynolds learned in the NFL under one of the best in Tony Dungy. It was with Dungy that Reynolds earned a Super Bowl ring when the Indianapolis Colts won the championship for the 2006-07 season.
Dungy was among one of several coaches to give OU coach Bob Stoops high marks about Reynolds because outside of former quality control coach Chad Walker, there was no direct link with Reynolds and OU.
It’s clear the values Reynolds learned under Dungy are now being taught in his own teachings.
“No. 1 thing from Coach Dungy is patience,” Reynolds said. “Patience and persistence. Just coaching kids and teaching them. Not just throwing them into the fire and not giving them the tools to be successful.
“When it’s appropriate, I raise my voice. But you can teach a young man without demeaning him. You can yell at a kid and not demean him and still uplift his spirit.”
One of those kids sounds like could be redshirt sophomore defensive end D.J.Ward. It’s not fair to say Ward didn’t see eye-to-eye with Montgomery because that’s not the case. But as OU moves to a multiple front, using both a 3-man front and a 4-man front, it seems like Ward is finding a home with Reynolds.
“Coach Diron is really speaking to me, and I wouldn’t say it’s better, but he takes things a little bit slower for me,” Ward said. “It definitely helps me a little bit.”
Reynolds said he never felt pressure to win over the players. But if that was true in any case, it would have been with senior defensive end Charles Tapper. One of the outspoken leaders of the team, Tapper admitted he shed a few tears when he learned Montgomery was leaving.
Tapper likes to say he views all of the OU coaches as father figures to him. It might take some time with that to develop with Reynolds off the field, but he certainly has no issues with what Reynolds is bringing on the field.
“He’s a very laid back coach and wants to get the finer techniques down,” Tapper said. “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, in a way, feels like sponge. He has been going from one organization to another, absorbing all the knowledge and learning from great teachers.
It has helped mold him as a coaching mind, and he’s ready to learn from one more with Stoops and make his own imprint with the Sooners.
“This has got to be everybody’s dream job,” Reynolds said. “This is one of those national jobs that you get a chance to come in and coach the best of the best with some great coaching minds.
“You got Coach Stoops running this thing, it’s just been awesome. His demeanor, his command over the unit. It’s getting a chance to be around another great teacher. It’s special.”