Chris Reynolds feels like he’s ready to reclaim a spot an injury snatched from him last fall.
Coming off a solid performance in the Charlotte 49ers’ spring football game last week, Reynolds now looks ahead to winning back his starting quarterback’s job when practice resumes in August.
“I felt as if I was progressing, back out there for the first time since my surgery,” Reynolds said after the spring game. “I felt a little slow and my timing wasn’t how it should be. But with the guys I have around me, anything can happen.”
Reynolds has been here before. Lightly recruited out of Davie County High, he redshirted his first year at Charlotte, then beat out Evan Sherriffs and Hasaan Klugh last season by showing a command of former coordinator Shane Montgomery’s pro-style offense and being able to keep plays alive with his arm and running ability.
Then, early in the third quarter of a Conference USA game against Western Kentucky, Reynolds (who had completed 12 of 19 passes for 119 yards to that point) went down with an injured ankle.
“Basically, I tore everything in my ankle,” said Reynolds, who in his five-plus games had a quarterback rating of 139.2 and completed 64.9% of his passes for 1,173 yards and six touchdowns.
Reynolds’ season was done, and he had to watch as Sherriffs and Klugh finished the season. Reynolds’ injury was severe enough to require surgery. After the operation, Reynolds said he went into hyper-rehab mode.
“The worst thing you can do is dwell on it, and say, ‘Dang, what could have happened (if I hadn’t gotten hurt)?’ ” Reynolds said. “I was with the trainer two hours a day. I was walking again earlier than I was supposed to. All my agility drills went well. They said it would be six months, but I got it done in four.”
Reynolds recovered in time for the 49ers’ first spring practice in March. Greeting Reynolds was new coach Will Healy and a new spread-option offense (one that’s not dissimilar to last season’s pro-style system except that it is run almost exclusively from the shotgun formation).
Reynolds had an excellent spring game, completing 8-of-11 passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran the ball nine times for 33 yards, although he was sacked twice, which helped account for his net of 5 yards rushing.
“Chris has some intangibles to him,” said Healy. “You could just watch the team rally around him and follow. He’s gotten better each and every day. I’m looking forward to some big things from him in the fall.”
When the 49ers reconvene for practice this summer, Reynolds will again compete with Sherriffs (who missed the spring game with a concussion) for the starting job. Grad transfer Brett Kean (South Florida) figures to be a factor as well.
As the quarterbacks continue to learn the new system, Healy has made it clear he’s not expecting too much from them, at least not yet. The 49ers have plenty of playmakers on offense, including second-team all-Conference USA running back Benny LeMay and a talented group of wide receivers led by sophomores Victor Tucker and Rico Arnold. Getting the ball to them, efficiently and error-free, is what Healy primarily wants.
“We don’t have to have a quarterback like Joe Montana,” Healy said. “We just need our quarterback to get us lined up the right way, execute at a high level and don’t turn the ball over, and make really good decisions.”
Competition for starting spots and playing time will extend beyond the quarterbacks, of course. Healy said the team’s first practices for the new coaching staff were fruitful and built a strong base for August. The 49ers open the season Aug. 31 at home against Gardner-Webb.
“There are things we need to clean up, from an execution standpoint,” Healy said. “You’re constantly coaching fundamentals. But you have to establish a foundation to build on this summer and for fall camp. We need 90 to 95 guys to hit the field and who know exactly what we’re looking for.
“We’re not starting from scratch any more. We’ve had a head start.”