As Jon Gruden said during his QB Camp episode with Brandon Weeden, Iowa State is “a pretty good football team. Quietly, they’ve become formidable.” You don’t become that quietly formidable without some quietly formidable players. I think that pair of words fits wide receiver Darius Reynolds.
The Cyclones receiver ran a 4.54-40, bench pressed 225 lbs. 23 times, delivered a 6.77 three-cone drill, and posted a 35-inch vertical leap at nearly 6’2″ and 206 pounds. His three-cone time would have been third-best at the NFL Combine and his bench press reps would have topped Marvin Jones’ 22 reps as the best overall. To give you a little more perspective, all of those numbers beat Justin Blackmon’s workouts.
Reynolds is a JUCO transfer to Iowa State who suffered a knee injury in Week Five of 2009 and missed the rest of the season. When I watched Reynolds, he was one of those players who makes plays that translate to the NFL if he can become a more consistent technician at his position. This 40-yard reception on a 3rd and 20 pass versus Iowa with 3:03 in the game and down 17-24 is a good example.
Reynolds was the outside receiver at the bottom of the screen in a 2×2 10 personnel shotgun set.
The set up of this double-move actually takes a lot of time because of this elongated stem with the stutter move, but he’s big enough and quick enough to accelerate past the defender and gain initial separation. This probably won’t work against a first-team NFL cornerback, but he should be able to get better at routes. It is the willingness to catch the ball in the danger zone of the secondary and the awareness to reduce the impending contact with a subtle move is harder to teach.
As Reynolds extends his arms for the ball and makes the catch with his hands, his momentum is carrying him into the path of the Iowa defensive back.
Let’s look at the catch and Reynolds’ initial move afterwards at a different angle.
As Reynolds makes the reception, he retracts his arms and takes the ball towards his sideline arm, which in theory is the best place to put the ball based on his location on the field.
Within the next split-second, Reynolds gauges the trajectory of the oncoming defender who will be coming from the right of the screen and determines he has to switch the ball to his inside arm.
Reynolds then makes another small adjustment to counter the impending hit when he dips his outside shoulder. Although he lowers the pad into the defender, he’s actually reducing the shoulder by pulling it inside to avoid just of the contact. This is a subtle but highly effective move.
Because of Reynolds’ angle, the defender bounces off the receiver and his momentum carries him to the sideline and eventually to the ground.
Reynolds then demonstrates the strength to drag the pursuing Iowa cornerback eight yards.
Reynolds also demonstrates good strength to prevent the defender from stripping the ball and this forces the defender to slide down the receiver’s legs and hold on for dear life.
This play demonstrates Reynolds’ ability to make a difficult adjustment on the ball and the defender at full speed with impending contact that better-known prospects would have difficulty executing. It’s also worth noting that he had a good two yards of separation on the corner despite route that wasn’t technically refined.
Reynolds displayed similar athleticism and hands versus Baylor. He reminds me a bit of Packers wide receiver James Jones. While unlikely to get drafted, his physical skill and aggressive play is worth remembering.
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