Another shutdown corner
Junior Rashaad Reynolds has elevated play this year, becoming a top cornerback
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 17:10
Everyone knows about Jordan Poyer.
The senior cornerback from Astoria was on the preseason watch-lists for the Bednarik Award for top defensive player, the Thorpe Award, for top defensive back, Lott Trophy for top impact defensive player, and the Hornung Award for most versatile player.
But if you look beyond Poyer, there is another cornerback on the Beavers who is making a big impact for the OSU secondary.
Junior cornerback Rashaad Reynolds has transformed into one of the better cornerbacks in the Pac-12, and proved it in Saturday’s game at Arizona, where he had one of the best defensive performances by an OSU player since the start of the 2011 season.
“He’s a great kid, smart guy, and through the experience of playing and the hard work he’s done in the offseason, he’s become a better player,” said OSU head coach Mike Riley. “He just had a terrific game the other night.”
Terrific describes Reynolds’ 10 total tackles, five passes deflected and game-ending interception well.
The interception Reynolds caught with less than a minute left in the game was the final nail in Arizona’s coffin.
“As soon as I saw him pick it, I went to go tackle him,” Poyer said. “It was just a great moment, I’m sure, for him, but even for me, too.”
It was 13 months ago when Reynolds was named the starter at cornerback opposite Poyer — and not under normal circumstances.
Brandon Hardin was a veteran cornerback who came into fall camp as the shoo-in to start. A broken shoulder derailed Hardin’s season before it started, opening the door for the unproven sophomore to step in.
Last year, Reynolds and the rest of the defense did not have the year they wanted — to say the least.
Once the calendar turned to 2012, Reynolds went from a wide-eyed, first-year starter to a confident and capable starter — and it has shown in the first three games.
“He’s really stepped up,” said secondary coach Rod Perry. “It really started in spring and then went on to summer camp, so I’m really not surprised. He’s playing at a very, very high level and I’m very happy with his progress.”
Almost everyone attributed the much-improved form of Reynolds this fall to, simply, experience.
“I always say experience is one of the main key factors of your success,” Poyer said. “Last year he started all 12 games, and [that] experience — he has it now.”
“A corner is out there on an island playing,” Riley said. “You’ve got to be instinctively smart playing the game to play that spot, because the ramifications of a mistake are so big, and that’s where he’s gained the most, is just experience, and then using his knowledge to be a better player.”
Opposing offenses are electing to challenge the skill set of Reynolds, because of Poyer’s presence on the other side of the field.
Reynolds himself is confident in his ability to use that experience to take on more of the pressure at corner.
“This year, I think I’ve just taken it to another level,” Reynolds said. “I played a lot of downs last year. I’ve been here. I’m not as nervous anymore. Now I’m just going out there and playing football.”
While the yardage numbers through the air from UCLA and Arizona have uncoveredholes in the OSU secondary, Reynolds is proving to be a playmaker. He has half of the team’s total 14 pass breakups.
“A lot of the good players have vision, they see more than everybody else,” Perry said. “He sees it, he feels it, he trusts what he believes, and then he goes and gets it. And that’s a plus, that’s the type of player you want.”
Many pointed to Reynolds being a possible breakout candidate in pass coverage, but his tenacity against the run has been a revelation for the Beavers.
“We always preach tackling,” Perry said. “The day of the pass cover corner when I played is over. You’ve got to be able to play the run and the pass, and he can tackle.”
The 25 total tackles Reynolds has racked up over three games lead the entire team, a rarity for a cornerback. He is even currently sitting at third in the Pac-12 for tackles as well.
The early season numbers aren’t changing anything for Reynolds as far as approach.
“Regardless of whether it’s a run or pass, I just try to bring my all every play,” Reynolds said. “If that means tackling the running back, I’m going to give it all that I’ve got, whether we win or lose.”
Reynolds has proven he can hang with the best wide receivers in the conference, and the elevation of his play can help make the argument that himself and Poyer are one of the better cornerback duos out there.
“We’re both physical and we both want to win,” Poyer said. “When you put those together, the sky is the limit. I think we could be up there as far as tandems in the Pac-12, and even in the country.”