Name, game make Micajah Reynolds special
AUG 30, 2012 11:23a ET
Reynolds, whom Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio termed his biggest “surprise” in preseason camp, blends great power with speed and size. He's 6-foot-5 and trimmed down to 302 pounds, bench presses 495 pounds and runs 40 yards in 4.95 seconds.
And he’s as proud of the development in his game as he is of his name.
“I was named after my fifth great-grandfather,” said Reynolds, who played high school ball at Lansing Sexton (Mich.). “He was actually a slave, and I believe he was in Virginia.
"My mom, Delilah, named me after him. He came from her side of the family, and the name means great man of God.
“I love it. It’s unusual. And you know what? I got on a Facebook group and found that there are actually 24 of us with this first name.”
It's pronounced muh-KY-juh.
“But my teammates just call me ‘Khaj,’” Reynolds said with an easy smile.
Opponents haven't had much need to learn his name until now. Reynolds, who played both defensive tackle and offensive guard as a reserve in 2011, made just two tackles in limited playing time over 12 games. He entered camp listed as the third-string tackle.
However, starting defensive tackle Anthony Rashad White was moved to nose tackle, opening the door for Reynolds. Senior nose tackle Tyler Hoover of Novi, Mich., was moved to defensive tackle and is listed as the co-starter there with Reynolds.
When asked what most surprised or shocked him about his team before opening the season Friday night against Boise State, head coach Mark Dantonio said:
“I think Micajah Reynolds is a surprise because he came up the depth chart. He came back into camp very much dedicated to what he has to do, on task.
"He always had the athletic ability, but there’s a sense of urgency at this point. That was a great thing to see.”
Dantonio said both Hoover (6-7, 310 pounds) and Reynolds will “play a lot” and that picking a starter could come down to a “flip of the coin.” But it's clear to see that Dantonio is thrilled to see how Reynolds has seized the opportunity to make an impact for the No. 13 Spartans.
“I think he’s had a tremendous summer camp,” Dantonio said. “He vertical (jumps) 33 inches. He benches 400-plus pounds, runs about 4.95. He’s a 300-pound guy. He’s got ability.
"What he’s learned to do up front on defense finally is play with his hands, play with his power -- not sit and read. So he’s much more engaged in terms of how he’s playing the game. (Defensive line coach) Ted Gill has done a great job with him, as well as (defensive coordinator Pat) Narduzzi, the defensive staff.
“I think right now he gets it. That’s what allowed him to rise up the depth chart. In the spring, he wasn’t in that capacity. He lost a little bit of weight. He was a little heavy. He was about 330. He’s sort of got things under control right now. It’s going to be important that he play well, there’s no question.”
His weight loss was connected to a family commitment to eating healthier meals.
“My grandfather took ill over the summer,” Reynolds said. “So the whole family stopped eating out all the time, and my mom and my aunts got us all eating the right things.
“I used to love going to Burger King. Everybody loves a double-stack (burger). Now I eat a lot at Chipotle. I like the naked chicken bowl instead of the burritos. But I do put guacamole in it!”
Reynolds laughed heartily about allowing himself that guilty pleasure.
“It was a lot of work but it helped tremendously,” he added. “My wind is a lot better ... and my moves are much swifter and faster. Laterally, I move a lot better.
"And I worked hard to get my bench press up because I knew I had to use my hands more and improve my power. I worked on my footwork with a guy who specializes in that.”
Reynolds was asked what clicked in his commitment to development.
“What the coaching staff does so well here is instill a mind-set that you do whatever it takes in however long it takes,” he said. “I just took a long time to get it, but that’s cool. I get that now. It’s the mindset that you won’t be denied.”
Reynolds added that a position decision he made with Narduzzi put his development in motion.
“Coach Narduzzi and I talked this summer about that,” Reynolds said, “and it’s been critical to have one spot to focus on. It was something I was very happy for.
"Coach Narduzzi asked what side of the ball I preferred, and my answer made it apparent that what I wanted to do was on defense.”
The Spartans could very well rotate Reynolds and Hoover to stay fresh against the fast-paced Boise State offense. The Broncos averaged 44.2 points in going 12-1 last season, but are replacing prolific quarterback Kellen Moore with Joe Southwick and return just six of 22 overall starters.
“I’ve learned a lot from Hoover,” Reynolds said. “It’s not like a competition between us. We have to help each other because we don’t know who will start.
"But if they were to start Hoover, I would not be mad at all. I know I’m going to come in.”
Reynolds intends to make a significant contribution to a star-studded defense that has potential All-Americas in end William Gholston, cornerback Johnny Adams, middle linebacker Max Bullough and strong safety Isaiah Lewis.
“It’s going to be a great defense,” Reynolds said. “We will be as good as last year, if not better.
"We have high expectations, and we are going to meet them. We intend to go above and beyond last year.”