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Navy’s Keenan Reynolds won’t pass up chance to throw

- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 4, 2012

ANNAPOLIS — Navy wide receiver Brandon Turner was worried.

As he made a cut in his route midway through the second quarter of Saturday's 24-17 win, Turner knew quarterback Keenan Reynolds was locked in on him. He also knew the coverage would be tight. If Reynolds' pass was a few yards off in either direction — a distinct possibility when throwing upwind on a blustery day — a Florida Atlantic defender would surely intercept it in the end zone.

The result, however, was perfect.

"It was probably the most perfect pass I've ever seen," Turner said.

That touchdown pass was the first of two from Reynolds to Turner, one of eight passes the plebe completed on the afternoon. He finished with a career-high 147 passing yards on 15 attempts and now has completed 61.4 percent of his throws this season.

That's no small feat in Navy's run-first, triple-option offense.

"Throwing the ball is his strength — and he can throw it," Keenan's father, Donnie Reynolds, said. "He's got the ability to put the ball in places where most people don't think it can be done."

Reynolds rushed for a career-high 159 yards on 26 carries against the Owls, but his father said Keenan will run only if he has to. The young quarterback was raised as a pocket passer and taught to examine every play from a defensive back's perspective by his father, a former University of Tennessee-Martin strong safety.

Keenan began watching film in middle school and was coached on the intricacies of coverages and throwing lanes. Donnie Reynolds made sure his son was always a step ahead.

"Ninety percent of the guys out there are athletic, got all the ability, but that 10 percent is how well you translate from the film room to the football field," Keenan's father said. "As you do film study, they tell you all their weaknesses, everything they're going to do wrong. Every defense gives you a throwing lane — you got to find it."

Those lessons have served Keenan well so far.

While Navy boasts the sixth-ranked rushing attack in the country and runs about 80 percent of the time, Reynolds has made the most of his few opportunities to throw. He's notched multiple touchdown passes in three of his four starts, and half of his completions Saturday went for gains of 20 yards or more.

"He beat Central Michigan with his arm. We've seen signs of that," Florida Atlantic coach Carl Pelini said. "It's hard: You get your DBs all geared up for the option and then you get in long yardage and it's hard to change gears. We haven't been in coverage like that all week."

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said the Midshipmen called more passing plays Saturday because they were struggling with the run. But it's only a matter of time until they begin consistently exploiting teams that stack the line of scrimmage.

While past Navy quarterbacks have been stronger or more comfortable on the ground, Reynolds has shown he's a different breed. He thrived at Goodpasture Christian in Antioch, Tenn., by studying defensive schemes and picking them apart. He's done the same thing in four consecutive wins as a starter at Navy.

Turner, for one, hopes the passing trend continues.

"It's kind of weird because you get so used to blocking and you're like 'Man, this next series I have to make this big block.' And finally, when that call comes in and it's a pass play, you're like 'Wow!' You almost forget what to do," Turner said. "It feels good."

Donnie Reynolds agrees. In his eyes, Saturday's game provided another small glimpse of what his son is capable of achieving in the passing game — if, of course, he is given the opportunity.

"He'll get better once he gets comfortable," the elder Reynolds said. "Once you see him get comfortable you'll see the game start to slow down, and he'll make plays even more."

"Believe me," he continued, "there's a lot to come."

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