After redshirt season, Javon Reynolds enjoying life at Coastal Carolina as UMass heads to town
"Coming from Berkshire County, there was a big, big, big change in culture, a change in play from Western Mass. football to Division I down here," said Reynolds, who was redshirted last year at Coastal Carolina University.
"It was a big difference," he said. "Everything was quicker."
Reynolds may not play, but he will finally be in uniform Saturday night when Coastal Carolina hosts the University of Massachusetts.
"I wouldn't say it was hard," Reynolds said of sitting last year. "I kind of actually liked it. I'm really glad I did it."
Reynolds is on the 2017 roster, and the 6-foot-5, 250-pound redshirt freshman will wear No. 67.
For the Minutemen, it's an opportunity to get on the winning side after last week's 38-35 loss to Hawaii at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.
For the Chanticleers — which, by the way, is a rooster who "rules the barnyard with cunning and wit. His competitiveness never wanes as he battles to the end," according to the team's media guide — it is their season opener and first game as a Division I-FBS team. Coastal Carolina, which is D-I in all other sports, moved up from the FCS level to be a full member of the Sun Belt Conference. Coastal Carolina is the first of three Sun Belt teams on the UMass schedule. The Minutemen will also play defending league champion Appalachian State and Georgia Southern.
Reynolds, who was a multi-sport athlete at Hoosac Valley, might have liked to play last year. But when the school announced its move up the D-I football ladder, the former Hurricane said that helped him, too.
"With the transfer to the FBS, in mid-year we found out about that last year, I was even happier about what happened," he said, "that I could get on my feet."
Reynolds had been reached out to by a number of Division II and Division III teams during his senior year.
"That was not in my plan," Reynolds said.
Cory Bailey, Coastal Carolina's defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, is a former head coach at Division II Assumption College in Worcester and was an assistant at King Philip High School in Eastern Massachusetts. The two of them got together, and then the Hoosac graduate was on his way to Conway, S.C., to try and make the Chanticleers.
"It was about the second or third week into camp [last year], that my coach told me I was probably going to be redshirted," Reynolds said. "Just because the speed of the game was different. I wasn't adjusting to it as fast as I should have.
"It let me relax a little bit, feel like that I didn't have to — not compete as hard — but I could just focus on perfecting my technique, the little things that I didn't really know."
Reynolds also had a chance to watch every game on tape with his Coastal teammates, learn what the coaches wanted from the players at his position, and internalize it.
Redshirts did not travel at Coastal Carolina, but Reynolds and the other redshirts did go to home games, stand on the sidelines, and "it was good to take it in, and to focus on we have a job to do."
Reynolds is listed as a defensive end as the Chanticleers play a 4-3 defense under acting head coach Jamey Chadwell and defensive coordinator Mickey Matthews. Matthews used to be the head coach at Division I-FCS James Madison, a team that was in the Colonial Athletic Association and Atlantic 10 with UMass.
It is a new position for Reynolds as well. He played tight end and linebacker at Hoosac. Before that, he was a quarterback and wide receiver at St. Joseph.
"I never really was quite on the line. Even at Hoosac, I played on the defensive side of the ball, but it was like a roaming linebacker," he said. "It was different. It was a different level of physicality."
Chadwell was hired as the team's associate head coach and offensive coordinator back in January. In July, he was named interim head coach because Joe Moglia is taking a medical sabbatical this season. Moglia has been suffering from a bronchial asthmatic reaction to allergies.
"I think they saw improvement from this Western Mass. boy to a Division I-FBS capable player," said Reynolds. "I knew it was grind time. We're getting down to it now."
Reach sports writer Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.
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