CALHOUN, Ga. — Fans of Gordon Central High School football may have wondered who the new quarterback was taking snaps in last week's 35-0 win over Coosa.
M.J. Reynolds isn't new, but his game is.
The same quarterback who began last season as a tentative passer is bigger, stronger and, most noticeably, more confident in the Warriors' spread attack. The senior destroyed the Eagles last week, completing 10 of 16 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns while running for 113 yards and another score.
"M.J. has put in a lot of work in the offseason, and it's paying off," coach Chad Fisher said. "He put on 15 pounds of muscle, and though he's now about 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, he's actually gotten quicker. He throws a better ball now with a lot of zip on it, and his footwork is noticeably better."
Reynolds' physical improvement was seen in the play-calling. Despite abundant speed on the outside, the Warriors relied mostly on short passes last season. Last Friday they stretched the field more, something opposing defenses will have to honor as the season goes on.
Reynolds has, according to Fisher, shown just as much improvement in the mental aspect of the game. His extra work in the film room has allowed for more play possibilities and more freedom for him to make adjustments.
"M.J. understands what we're trying to do with the plays, the reason we're calling them," Fisher explained. "That has allowed us to expand the playbook with more routes and movement."
Part of Reynolds' offseason work included attending quarterback camps at Vanderbilt, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Austin Peay, where he learned the importance of mechanics and what he wasn't doing properly last year.
"The biggest thing I learned was that I needed to keep my base closed right before I threw the ball," Reynolds said. "That really has helped my footwork. Knowing the offense better has helped my confidence, and having more freedom shows the coaches trust me, and that helps also."
It doesn't hurt to have a seasoned, talented corps of receivers, including Dynamite Dozen senior Tyshaun Clemmons, huge tight end Dre Prather and sure-handed Bryan Brookshire.
"I have extreme confidence in that group, and they all have great hands and are always open," Reynolds gushed. "The biggest thing is I trust them to make plays when things break down."
That trust, it seems, goes both ways.
"M.J. is a different quarterback," Clemmons said before the season. "Our offense is going to be strong this year, and he's a big reason."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...