When it became clear during the offseason that junior-college transfer Chris Martin would not be around this fall to intimidate offenses, wreak havoc off the edge of the defensive line and give the Kansas University football team its first true pass rushing threat with double-digit sack potential, the focus shifted to fellow juco transfer Andrew Bolton.
No one really talked about Michael Reynolds.
And maybe that was a good thing. See, for years, we've talked about Reynolds as a natural pass rusher and called him one of the Jayhawks with the most potential, but during his first three seasons in Lawrence — the Wichita native red-shirted in 2010 — he didn't show much more than potential.
That isn't the case any more. With Martin gone and Bolton red-shirting while overcoming an injury, Reynolds has stepped into an important role for the Kansas defense and currently finds himself leading the team in sacks with 5.5.
The number is not one that will set the college football world on fire, but it's significant around here. And it's significant for a couple of reasons. For one, Kansas, as a team, managed just 12 sacks all of 2012. For two, it validates all of that talk about Reynolds being the kind of guy who could make a difference for a defense.
The pass-rush specialist did just that during KU's 42-6 loss at Oklahoma State last Saturday. His effort did not do much to keep KU in the game, but it did allow a pretty solid season to keep rolling. And it's indicative of what this whole defense is about right now — great effort, legitimate improvement, not much to show for it.
Reynolds' sack of OSU quarterback Clint Chelf in the third quarter gave him a sack in four of KU's past five games. During the rest of the game, Reynolds added another tackle, recorded a career-high two pass break-ups and consistently got close enough to Chelf to make him get rid of the ball just a tick earlier than he probably would have liked. That was reflected in his 19-of-37 passing numbers, which included several balls thrown prematurely that either missed the mark or were dropped by wide receivers not quite ready for them.
Like Ben Heeney finishing third in the Big 12 in tackles in 2012, Reynolds' strong season likely will be overlooked, perhaps even forgotten, because of all of the losing. And there's no doubt that Reynolds and the rest of the guys in that KU locker room would trade any and all of their individual statistics for a couple more tallies in the win column.
Until those start to come, though, efforts like the most recent one from the emerging Reynolds are all the Jayhawks have to celebrate.
Three games left to change that.