Switch to defense pays off for JMU’s Reynolds

James Madison's Taylor Reynolds (14) tackles North Carolina's T.J. Logan (8) during their game on Sept. 17 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Reynolds has played a key role in JMU's success this season. AP file

HARRISONBURG — James Madison University redshirt senior Taylor Reynolds came to the school as a quarterback, but injuries to a few players opened up a cornerback position for Reynolds. The move has worked out perfectly for him and the team.

After redshirting his first year, then JMU head coach Mickey Matthews asked Reynolds if he would be willing to move to cornerback.

“He asked me one day ‘I’m going to try you out at corner. I know you’re an athlete. I know you can probably play corner,'” Reynolds said after practice earlier this week. “So I said ‘OK, coach I just want to get on the field as soon as possible.'”

As a redshirt freshman, he had 30 tackles, two interceptions and a touchdown.

The last two seasons, under former JMU head coach Everett Withers, Reynolds continued to have strong performances and started every game at cornerback. He was a first-team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection last year. This year Reynolds is playing for his third different coach – JMU head coach Mike Houston.

Reynolds said looking back on it, he’s glad he was moved to defense.

“I think it was a good decision overall,” Reynolds said. “The coaching changes didn’t affect anything. Just adapting to new systems and playing to my ability, it’s been working good so far. I feel like I’ve become a good player on the defensive side of the ball. Having played quarterback it helps me a lot to know what the quarterback’s looking for and what the offense is game planning to do. So that helps me a lot as well.”

Reynolds came to JMU at the same time as Gage Steele, Justin Wellons, Matt Franks, Kyle Rigney and Mitchell Kirsch. He said they’ve all formed a strong bond.

Steele said that he was impressed with the way Reynolds handled the move from offense to defense.

“Taylor obviously is a big part of our defense,” Steele said. “He’s a bright player, knows the game well. He started off as a quarterback and was very open to making the switch. He’s a great person and a great player. He’s been through a change in position. And to see him deal with it and to come out on top it’s a cool thing to see.”

The 6-foot, 195-pound Reynolds has 23 tackles this season. He has one interception, which sealed a victory over William & Mary, and has a team-best five pass breakups.

Houston said that Reynolds’ ability and size allow the Dukes to use him in many different ways.

“I just think he does a good job,” Houston said. “He’s a fifth-year player, fourth different defensive coordinator. In spite of all that he’s really embraced the system, the scheme, and is playing very, very well in it.”

Houston said the type of person Reynolds is goes a long way in helping him on the field.

“I think first that he is just an outstanding person,” Houston said. “Don’t underestimate the value of that. Because being able to be with him on a daily basis he’s always going to be a ‘yes sir, no sir’ guy. He’s always going to be a guy that tried to do what you ask him to do. That goes a long way when it comes to being a great player.”

Reynolds will be the first to admit he’s made some mistakes at his time at cornerback over his career, but it’s also those mistakes that have made him the player he is today.

“I would say I’ve learned a lot from my failures early on as a young player, and I still fail now and then, but I would say my failures are what have made me stronger and made me into a better player,” Reynolds said.

The Dukes are on their bye week and have a 6-1 record, including a perfect 4-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association.

The Dukes have lost in their first playoff game the last couple years. Reynolds said he feels like this year’s team will be different and he feels like they are working hard now to prepare themselves for a run in the postseason.

“I would say this season is a little more special – senior year. We have a lot of seniors. We have an older group,” Reynolds said. “I feel like this is our year. We have an experienced quarterback. He’s very confident. We have a confident offensive group. We have a confident defensive group. We’ve been playing very well on special teams. I would say this year we can really make a a run in the playoffs and do good things for this university.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com