2016 Shrine Game: Navy's Keenan Reynolds looks natural at RB

SAINT PETERSBURG – No quarterback in FBS history has more career rushing yards than Navy’s Keenan Reynolds, who tallied 4,559 rushing yards over the last four seasons. He also set the Division-I record for total touchdowns (88) and finished fifth in the 2015 Heisman Trophy voting.

But with his size (5-10, 200) and skill-set, Reynold’s best fit in the NFL is at running back, a position he has never played. However, with his experience as a ballcarrier in Navy’s option offense, the transition should go smoothly. And if Monday’s Shrine Game practice is any indication, Reynolds looks like a natural at the new position.

Reynolds showed the lower body athleticism to make quick cuts and fluidly redirect his momentum, stringing together his moves to pick through the defense. He reads the field well and has the speed to beat the linebacker to the edge. With only one career catch in college, Reynolds is unproven as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, but he didn’t drop a ball during the first practice and appeared natural looking the ball into his hands before bursting downfield.

With his limited build, Reynolds doesn’t have the body power to run through contact, which showed as an inside runner. And with 32 career fumbles at Navy, he also needs to improve his ball security, putting the ball on the ground once during practice on Monday.

Normally in these all-star settings, the offensive and defensive formations are basic and vanilla to keep the focus on the evaluations. But Charlie Weis, who is head coach of the East squad, revealed a few special packages during practice with Reynolds in the shotgun taking direct snaps. On the four snaps he took on Monday, Reynolds completed one pass, ran the ball twice and handed it off to the running back once.

Other notes from Monday’s practice:

  • At 6-0 and 245 pounds, Stony Brook pass rusher Victor Ochi lacks ideal size and length, which showed during practice when he lined up with his hand in the ground as a defensive end. But his burst off the ball, aggressive hands and quickness to close also was on display, turning a few heads with his movement skills. Ochi needs space to be effective, making him a possible fit in a 3-4 scheme on his feet. It will be interesting to see if the coaches give him any reps standing up at linebacker.
  • It was an up-and-down practice for Boston College safety Justin Simmons (6-2, 201). He struggled in one-on-one drills, getting his feet tied up and failing to cover receivers in reverse. But during seven-on-seven drills at safety, Simmons was able to read the quarterback and jump routes, knocking down several passes and intercepting one of them.
  • It was a shaky first practice for the quarterbacks, which isn’t uncommon as they acclimate themselves to new teammates, new coaches and a new playbook. Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty (6-2, 216) was the most consistent of the passers with his smooth release and accuracy when in rhythm. Over the next few days at practice, scouts will be watching to see which quarterbacks show improvement and adapt the coaching they receive.
  • Arkansas State Darion Griswold (6-5, 265) certainly passes the eye test with his large, athletic frame, but the former high school quarterback is still learning how to best use his size to his advantage. While he has ballskills and clear upside for the NFL, the one area Griswold needs to improve for the next level is his balance, both in his routes and at the catch point.
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