WINSTON-SALEM – Ever since he showed up at Wake Forest, seemingly everyone has been waiting for Orville Reynolds to reach his potential.
Especially Orville Reynolds.
Now back at his natural position of running back, the 5-foot-9 senior has one last chance to live up to the big-play reputation that created buzz before his 2011 arrival.
His redshirt was burned late in his freshman season, and he dabbled at receiver during mostly two years of spot duty.
Now he’s hoping to make the most of his only season under new coach Dave Clawson.
The native of Coral Springs, Florida, said “it couldn’t have been a better time for everything to work out.”
Reynolds is hoping for a fresh start under Clawson, who came in from Bowling Green and took over last December when Jim Grobe stepped down after 13 seasons.
The new coach has brought a conditioning-first mindset and Reynolds said it didn’t take long during this offseason to see its effects.
“Since I’ve been here, this has definitely been one of the hardest offseasons – the first time we’ve had the entire team,” Reynolds said. “I feel like we run every couple of hours. ... If you’d asked us six months ago, (I’d have said) ‘It’s like you’re trying to kill us.’ Everything I can tell, they’ve got a program set up and it’s definitely going in the right direction.”
The Demon Deacons hope Reynolds can help propel them toward their first winning season since 2008.
He arrived in 2011 out of Florida’s Stoneman Douglas High School with significant fanfare: Before one of Reynolds’ first practices that preseason, Grobe made a point of telling reporters to keep an eye on him.
The plan was to redshirt him, as Wake Forest did with virtually each of Grobe’s incoming freshmen, but he was pressed into duty for a visit from Notre Dame on Nov. 5 – the ninth game that season.
“At the time, I had just turned 18, so I was just excited,” Reynolds said. “My first play, being out there, they had the (overhead) cameras strapped to the poles. ... It was like, ‘Wow, this is what we dreamed of.’ It didn’t even matter to me that it was in the middle of the season. I just wanted to play.
“And even now when I look back on it, everything happened for a reason.”
Reynolds, the only freshman to play for the Demon Deacons that season, finished with 28 carries for 123 yards as a backup over the final five games and added four receptions for 25 yards.
Reynolds added five carries for minus-6 yards and two catches for minus-4 yards as a sophomore splitting time at running back and slot receiver.
He worked mostly in the slot in the 2013 season, catching 12 passes for 166 yards with two touchdowns and adding nine rushes for 40 yards.
But the offense last year was centered around three seniors – quarterback Tanner Price, slot receiver Mike Campanaro and running back Josh Harris – and the multiple changes to the offensive system prevented any semblance of continuity.
The result was a 4-8 season, a 2-6 Atlantic Coast Conference finish, the resignation of Grobe and the exits of most of his assistants.
Clawson moved Reynolds back to his natural position and now he’s hoping to finally fulfill his potential.
“Everything happened so we can just have a new coaching staff, new plays, new positions,” Reynolds said. “I had to play receiver for a year and a half to take my game to the next level. Whatever road it took, we’re here now. We just have to keep it going.”