OU's Jaz Reynolds gets his chance
Oklahoma receiver -- suspended all of 2010 -- returns to field, excels as fill-in
Norman, Okla. -- Jaz Reynolds was humbled and humiliated. Benched and suspended.
All of those things made Reynolds' bust-out performance in Oklahoma's 38-28 win over Missouri Saturday night all the more satisfying.
"I've been waiting for my chance for a year-and-a-half," Reynolds said afterward, unable to contain a smile. "It all snowballed into tonight."
Replacing Kenny Stills, who was sidelined after suffering symptoms of a concussion late in the week, Reynolds came through with a career-high 93 yards receiving on five catches.
"Coach (Bob Stoops) didn't want to lose anything with Kenny down," said Reynolds, who found out Thursday night he was getting the start. "Kenny is a big-time player. I wanted to do my best to fill his shoes."
Reynolds filled in admirably, with his second catch proving to be the turning point in the game.
Trailing 14-10 in the second quarter and facing third-and-seven, Landry Jones lobbed a pass down the sideline to Reynolds, isolated in single coverage. Reynolds hauled in the pass for a 39-yard, first-down completion. The Sooners scored a touchdown seven plays later, and held the lead the rest of the night.
"That was a big momentum switch," coach Bob Stoops said. "It's third down, and he catches it on a go route. And Jaz did a nice job, holding the outside edge to give himself room to catch it."
After the Sun Bowl two years ago, it appeared Reynolds was going to be a big part of the offense for years to come.
Then a true freshman, Reynolds snagged three critical passes as OU's No. 3 receiver to help lift the Sooners to a 31-27 win over Stanford.
"After that, I felt like I had my spot solidified," Reynolds said. "So I backed off a little bit. That's when everything started going bad for me."
Reynolds slacked in the off-season workouts, drawing the ire of strength and conditioning coach Jerry Schmidt. As a result, Reynolds tumbled down the depth chart. Eventually, he was supplanted in the starting lineup by Stills, a true freshman.
"Kenny came in with a vengeance," Reynolds said. "For a freshman to come in and take my spot, it was pretty embarrassing. Everything kept getting worse."
Reynolds was suspended for the Air Force game after missing classes. Then, came the hammer.
On the same day a gunman opened fire in the University of Texas library and then took his own life, Reynolds got on Twitter and declared: "Hey everyone in Austin, tx&&kill yourself #evillaugh." Moments later, Reynolds tweeted again: "Everyone in austin, tx disregard that last tweet.&y'all will mess around n do it lmao."
Reynolds now calls the incident "an embarrassment and a humbling experience."
But Stoops immediately suspended Reynolds, who ended up not playing a down in 2010. As each game passed, Reynolds fell deeper into the pouting abyss.
"I was the first one to the locker room, the first one ready to get on the plane, the first one to leave," Reynolds said. "I had a lot of growing up to do. I had to learn how to be a team player."
"The coaches stuck by me. They didn't write me off," Reynolds said. "If I wasn't playing, there was a reason behind it. I had to figure it out."
In the spring, Reynolds began to get noticed. In the fall, he was noticed more. Then this week, his chance finally arrived, as Reynolds was pegged to replace the player that replaced him.
"He was ready to play," Broyles said. "He was like, 'I'm coming after you.'"
Stills should be back next week. But with No. 3 wideout Trey Franks, currently occupying Stoops' doghouse for multiple rules violations, who knows.
A couple more games like Missouri, and Reynolds could regain his old spot for good.
"I've been through so much," Reynolds said. "This feels pretty satisfying."
Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation.
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