Navy option offense starts with Reynolds

PITT

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The signature aspect of a triple-option offense, which Pitt will face this weekend when the Panthers take on Navy, is its multiplicity. On any snap, the ball could end up with one of several different runners, depending on how the defense lines up and attacks the play.

There is, though, one consistent factor: On every play, the ball starts in the hands of the quarterback. For Navy, that role falls to sophomore Keenan Reynolds.

It's up to Reynolds to make the initial read of whether to hand the ball off to his fullback up the middle or keep it himself, then he usually has to decide whether to keep it or send it to his pitch man, all in a matter of seconds.

"He does a great job and it all starts with him, even just the mechanics and the decision-making," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. "All that, I think he's probably very important to their offense."

Reynolds took over as the starter midway through last season and started the final eight games under center for the Midshipmen. He finished the year with 649 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing, and even added 898 yards and nine touchdowns through the air.

Navy's offense works best when it stays grounded, but Reynolds can also throw the ball when he gets the opportunity. In Navy's second win of the season against Delaware, he threw for 233 yards and two touchdowns, the best passing game by a Navy quarterback since 2000.

"I think he's a good player," Pitt defensive coordinator Matt House said. "He's a good passer, but he runs their offense well. He's definitely not like some option quarterbacks that can't throw the ball across the field."

Since that huge game against Delaware, Reynolds' 2013 season has been somewhat up and down. He had a head injury against Western Kentucky but came back to rush for 126 yards and three touchdowns the next week against Air Force.

The next two weeks, in losses to Duke and Toledo, he ran a combined 45 times for just 68 yards, an average of 1.5 yards per carry.

In the week before the Toledo game, he did not practice at all because of illness. "Practice is always good for anybody," Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper told NavySports.com this week. "He has missed some practices.

"It shows you how committed he is and how badly he wants to play. Hopefully he can get rid of the sick bug, the injury bug and get him out there for a full week of practice."

Reynolds, for his part, said he's "feeling fine" and ready to go this week.

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said Pitt will be the best team Navy has faced this season, but the Panthers will also have their hands full with the Midshipmen's unique offense, led by Reynolds.

"I think their skill personnel forces you to play their offense honestly," Chryst said. "I think you have to account for the dive, you have to account for the quarterback, you have to account for the pitch, you have to be aware of the play action."

No matter where the ball ends up, though, it always starts with Reynolds.

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.


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