Top Junior LB On Campus

Stanford has one linebacker on the roster from the 2002 recruiting class, and the Card landed a pair last February. With no LB commits and scarce few hot prospects on the board in this current senior class, that should create an extraordinary need for linebackers in the 2005 class. Enter Las Vegas (NV) junior phenom Ryan Reynolds, who is on campus this weekend for an important unofficial visit...

Five years ago at this time, we would be firming up Stanford's senior recruiting targets as the crucial December and January recruiting months loomed large on the horizon.  Late evaluations and offers would create tense times for Cardinal recruitniks, though the self-selling Stanford campus would help close the deal on many providential prospects.

Oh, how times have changed.

This weekend will mark not only the visits of some high profile senior recruits for the 2004 class, but also two junior All-American talents that top the list of Buddy Teevens' 2005 targets.  Both highlight the defensive side of the ball, and hail from the desert regions of the Southwest.  You are plenty familiar already with defensive tackle Ekom Udofia, the pass rushing phenom from Scottsdale, AZ and younger brother of current Cardinal freshman defensive end Udeme Udofia.

It is time for Cardinalmaniacs™ to become intimately familiar with one of the premier linebackers in America: 6'2" 220-pound Ryan Reynolds of Bishop Gorman HS in Las Vegas, NV.  Not only is Stanford one of his top schools, but also Reynolds is taking an overnight unofficial visit to The Farm this weekend.  He was on campus yesterday and attended the team's walk-through practice in the Stadium in the afternoon, and today he will enjoy time on the field, in the stands and in the locker room during the Cardinal's final 2003 game against Notre Dame.

Reynolds made a sweep through some of the nation's top college camps this past summer after his sophomore year, and earned a commanding list of offers during the tour.  He currently holds offers from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, Kansas State and UCLA.  That is a better offer list than probably 95% of the seniors in the current TheInsiders recruiting database, and it could easily put Reynolds in cruise control his last two years of high school.

"It puts a lot of pressure on me," he comments on the early offers.  "But I'm not a kid who think just because I have offers that I can stop working."

To the contrary, Reynolds was in full form this recently concluded junior season, racking up 96 tackles and 12 tackles for loss in his 10-game season.  He also logged six sacks, five quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and another fumble recovered.  Reynolds knocked down two passes, blocked on kick and intercepted one pass - which he returned for a touchdown.

He started the year at middle linebacker but was moved outside to take better advantage of his speed.  Offenses reacted and ran everything to the opposite side of the field, though, requiring that his high school coaches move him back to the MLB position.

"The biggest change I saw this year in Ryan was his athleticism," says Bishop Gorman head coach David White.  "He used to be known as a big and physical kid, he had greater range this year and made tackles inside and outside.  He always had a motor that never quit, but now he makes more plays.  There is no question his quickness is his greatest strength.  He has run a 3.88 shuttle time at a camp and is no worse than a 4.0."

"I'd like to see Ryan improve his range of vision, though," White adds.  "He needs to have his head on a swivel, to watch for cut blocks and to see things around him.  We prefer to play him inside so people don't get to run away from him.  He also could get a little meaner.  He's such a nice kid off the field, and when guys come after him you'd like him to respond.  I don't want him to talk trash back, but I want him to get a little more edge."

Reynolds also has made some noise at fullback, though the Bishop Gorman offense often goes to single-back pro sets without a fullback on the field.  He picked up 393 yards and five touchdowns on 35 carries this year, a very impressive 11.2 yards per carry.  When in the game Reynolds would often be put in motion as a halfback, and that allowed him to get outside for 84 receiving yards on eight catches.  He has looked so good on offense that Oklahoma has hinted they might take him as a fullback.

"I'm pretty determined to be a linebacker at the next level," Reynolds comments on his college future.  "I just love to hit."

The Sooners have taken a strong lead in this recruitment with the camp experience they offered Reynolds this past summer, as well as the relationship established between the recruit and their linebackers coach/co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

"Oklahoma's camp was just great," Reynolds exclaims.  "Coach Venables took lots of time to talk and take us around.  I really enjoyed the campus.  They're a top two school for me at least, if not number one."

Those feelings were affirmed when Reynolds took an unofficial visit to Norman, OK four weeks ago to checkout the Sooners in their rivalry game against Oklahoma State.  Oklahoma did nothing to hurt themselves with the game day experience of the #1 team in the country crushing their Stillwater rivals, 52-9.  He spent time on the field and in the locker room, all of which was fantastic.

"Oklahoma was awesome," the junior recruit reports. "Great players and coaches and what great fans.  I enjoyed the intensity of everyone."

It looks like the Sooners are a prohibitive favorite, according to his head coach.  "They're way out there by a pretty fair amount," White says of Oklahoma.  "The coaches are all so personable.  They gave him high fives and head locks.  Venables is a young coach who Ryan really has bonded with."

"But this is Ryan's decision and we've said that he isn't going to commit early," White continues.  "He needs to go through all of this and experience several schools.  It isn't my decision and it isn't his father's decision.  Ryan has to make the decision that will be best for his future - he'll be the one going to school.  Academics and the West Coast are big factors for him and his dad, and that's why he is taking such a hard look at a school like Stanford."

Last January Reynolds made his first national impact on the recruiting scene with a standout performance at the Army All-American combine as an underclassman during his sophomore year, and then he followed up in front of a national gathering of college coaches in May at the Stanford Nike Camp.  Though a year younger than most all of the attendees, Reynolds showed as one of the top overall linebackers at the largest Nike Camp ever assembled, and put up sick numbers like a 4.08 shuttle and a 30.1" vertical. His 32 reps of the 185-pound bench press ranked him sixth in the entire camp.  He will again attend the Army All-American combine as an underclassman this January in San Antonio (TX).  Look for that performance plus his soon-to-circulate junior film to send his offer list through the roof.  Ryan Reynolds will be as big a recruit as you will follow in the 2005 class.  This weekend's unofficial visit to The Farm may go a long way toward determining where Stanford stands in that heated race.

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