Two weeks off apparently did the trick as Navy starting quarterback Keenan Reynolds said he's as close to 100 percent as he has been all season.
Reynolds suffered a knee injury after being hit by a helmet on Sept. 6 against Temple and hasn't been healthy since. The Tennessee native practiced on Monday without wearing a brace on his right knee for the first time since being blindsided by Owls linebacker Tyler Matakevich.
Reynolds sat out the following Saturday's game at Texas State, but returned on Sept. 20 against Rutgers. The 5-foot-10, 195-pounder appeared affected by the injury during a three-game losing streak that culminated with a devastating defeat at the hands of service academy rival Air Force. The Tennessee native hurt his right shoulder late in the fourth quarter against the Falcons and was forced to leave the game.
Head coach Ken Niumatalolo decided not to dress Reynolds for the Oct. 11 home game versus Virginia Military Institute, and Navy won handily with backup quarterback Tago Smith directing the triple-option offense. Reynolds did not participate in practice at all during the VMI week and also got all of last week to rest further since the Midshipmen had a bye. Asked after practice on Monday whether the two weeks off was beneficial, Reynolds didn't hesitate.
"Definitely. Just getting my body right, and more importantly my mind," he said. "Just recharging the batteries. I feel good, the legs feel good and I'm getting my arm back together."
Asked if he was back to 100 percent, Reynolds replied: "Getting there. That's probably the best estimate I can give you. I'll be where I need to be on Saturday in order to be effective."
Smith improved to 2-0 as the starting quarterback with a solid, albeit unspectacular, performance in the 51-14 rout of VMI. The 5-foot-10, 201-pound sophomore didn't put up big numbers – completing 3 of 5 passes for 82 yards and rushing for just 24 yard on nine carries – but led the Midshipmen to 44 points and almost 400 total yards of offense before leaving the game late in the third quarter.
Niumatalolo said on Monday that Reynolds would start on Saturday when Navy (3-4) hosts San Jose State (3-3) on Homecoming in Annapolis.
"This is as healthy as Keenan has been all year so we're excited about that," Niumatalolo said on Monday. "To see him running around out here without his brace is very encouraging."
Niumatalolo said the bye week was good for the entire Navy football team as Reynolds wasn't the only one nursing injuries. Starting center Tanner Fleming also sat out against VMI with a nagging ankle injury while his backup, Blaze Ryder, was sidelined with a shoulder ailment. Reserve slotback and kickoff returner Calvin Cass Jr. (hamstring) also did not dress for VMI while starting right tackle Joey Gaston left that game with the same ailment.
Niumatalolo said every one of the aforementioned players practiced in some capacity on Monday. "We're hoping that they'll all be ready, but it's day-to-day. Right now, guys are getting better and closer to playing so we'll see what happens," he said.
Niumatalolo gave the players Monday and Tuesday of last week off and Navy resumed practicing from Wednesday through Friday. The Midshipmen had the weekend free of football responsibilities and many, including Reynolds, hustled home to spend some time with family.
"There are very few opportunities here, especially during the season, when you get a weekend off. We needed it. It's been a grind both physically and mentally," said Niumatalolo, who felt last week's mixed schedule of work and rest was beneficial. "I thought we had good practices – crisp, sharp, physical. We practiced as well as we have all year. We also got some rest. The pace of academy life takes its toll. All in all, I like what happened last week. I liked what I saw today. I think guys are fresh."