Senior cornerback's thefts have him among nation's best

REYNOLDSCORVALLIS -- Rashaad Reynolds was an all-league quarterback at San Fernando High in Pacoima, Calif., throwing for 1,566 yards and 13 touchdowns and running for 663 yards and eight TDs as a senior.

No wonder the eyes of Oregon State's senior cornerback and co-captain have lit up like Christmas trees in piling up four interceptions over the Beavers' last three games.

"I miss having the ball in my hands," Reynolds said as the Beavers (6-1 overall, 4-0 in Pac-12 play) prepared for Saturday's 7:30 p.m. showdown with ninth-ranked Stanford (6-1, 3-1) at Reser Stadium. "That's why I try to get in on punt returns. I love running with the ball. But playing cornerback was ultimately the best decision the coaches made."

The 5-11, 185-pound Reynolds, who will make his 33rd consecutive start Saturday, has taken over for consensus first-team All-American Jordan Poyer as the leader of the OSU defensive backfield this season.

"He's the captain of the secondary, no question," said Larry Scott, a sophomore who backs up Reynolds. "He's a guy we all look up to. He's been there, done that. He's real motivated. He keeps your mind right."

"Rashaad has developed into that role," secondary coach Rod Perry said. "He's vocal when he needs to be. A lot of times he leads by example, but he doesn't mind speaking up.

"He saw Poyer, who was a little more vocal as a senior. Now Rashaad is a guy who helps lead us, helps us in meetings and in practice and is able to pick his teammates up. He spends a great deal of time with preparation. He helps teammates prepare; then he goes out and he plays football. He's a good example for the other kids."

Reynolds embraced the idea after seeing how important Poyer's presence was to the Beavers' success a year ago.

"Not just Poyer, but Markus (Wheaton) as well," said Reynolds, second on the team with 75 tackles last season and second in the Pac-12 with 16 passes deflected. "They were great leaders for us. They got the guys going. They were guys people looked up to.

"Being one of the seniors and established in the program, I felt that was my duty to do that. You feed off guys like Jordan and Markus, and also somebody like (former QB and current intern) Lyle Moevao. I try to take parts of the guys who have been here."

JC transfer Steven Nelson -- who stepped into Poyer's spot opposite Reynolds at cornerback -- is tied for the national lead with five interceptions. Nelson said he has been a sponge with his teammate, whom he refers to as "a mentor." They are the biggest reasons why Oregon State is tied with Missouri for the national lead with 14 picks.

"He knows the system so well," Nelson said of Reynolds. "We all listen to him. When I first came here, I attached to him, realizing he knows everything about our defense and what we're supposed to do at cornerback. I've tried to follow his lead."

Reynolds -- who was also a three-time city wrestling champion at San Fernando -- had no interceptions in Oregon State's first four games. Not coincidentally, the Beavers' defense started slowly, beginning with the 49-46 loss to Eastern Washington in the season opener.

But the third-year starter has caught fire of late.

"Rashaad didn't get off to a great start, not the start you wanted him to have for whatever reason," defensive coordinator Mark Banker said. "But he has shaped back into being the guy we all know and love. right now, he's playing well.

"He has been good with responsibility in coverage, playing within the scheme, playing with his eyes.

He has a great work ethic and good football instincts, and he's a tough guy."

Reynolds said he had a "wakeup call" after being burned twice for touchdown passes in the first half of Oregon State's 52-24 win at Washington State on Oct. 12. He stormed back to life in the second half with two interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles, earning Pac-12 defensive player of the week laurels.

"That was my first taste of getting attacked (by an opposing offense)," Reynolds said. "It opened up my eyes. Now I'm ready."

Oregon State's defense has seemed to make strides through the season.

"Anybody who has watched the games would say that," Reynolds said. "We're steadily improving in every area -- staying in passing lanes, rushing the quarterback, stopping the run, stopping the pass. "We came in with a veteran group. We had to put the pieces together. At the beginning of the year, we just expected it to happen. After the (Eastern Washington) loss, we had to come together. I think we've done that."

Reynolds, 22, is making the most of his time as a college student-athlete. He graduated in June in human development and family sciences, but it's the extracurricular experiences that set him apart.

"This is a great time in (a young man's) life," he said. "You only have five years to do it. I jump at any chance to do anything. I tell people, 'Anything you got, throw it at me.' If I have time, I'll do it."

The summer of 2011, Reynolds was among 17 former and current athletes who visited Guatemala as part of Taylor Kavanaugh's "Beavers Beyond Borders" program, helping to build a house for a needy family.

"That was the greatest experience of my life," Reynolds said. "It's the thing I'll remember over football and everything else -- the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone, to go somewhere I'd never been with a group that loved giving back to people.

"On the flip side, the community really embraced us. That was my biggest enjoyment of the whole trip. For them not to have a lot, they were so giving, so caring, so happy. It's crazy how people in America are so uptight. (Guatemalans) had nothing, but that was the happiest group of people I've been around."

The summer of 2012, Reynolds was among a large group of OSU athletes who attended the NCAA National Career in Sports Forum at Indianapolis.

"That was also one of the best experiences of my life," he said. "I'm grateful to God to give me the opportunity to expand my horizons.

"It was two days learning a lot of things -- job and career building, how to carry yourself, how to be a leaders, how to take your leadership to the next level. It has helped me grow not just as a player and student but as a person."

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