Navy prepares for VMI without quarterback Reynolds

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) Navy could be without injured quarterback Keenan Reynolds in Saturday's game against Virginia Military Institute.

Given the way VMI has been playing this season, it might not matter much.

Reynolds' knee has been an issue since he twisted it against Temple game on Sept. 6. The standout junior missed the next game at Texas State, but returned on Sept. 20 for a home game against Rutgers and played last week against Air Force.

Reynolds has looked tentative at times in the option game, rushing for just 52 yards on 40 carries against Rutgers and Air Force. The Tennessee native was knocked out of the Air Force game - Navy's third straight loss - after taking a hard hit to his right shoulder.

The quarterback did not participate in practice on Tuesday or Wednesday, instead watching Tago Smith direct the first-team offense. Coach Ken Niumatalolo would not announce his starting quarterback for Saturday, saying he would wait to evaluate the progress of Reynolds.

Smith made his first collegiate start at Texas State and was impressive in leading Navy (2-4) to a 35-21 victory. The 5-foot-10 sophomore passed for 117 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 85 yards and scored twice while smoothly operating the triple-option offense.

VMI is a Football Championship Subdivision program coming off a 55-7 loss to Chattanooga. The Keydets (1-5) are allowing 43.2 points and 507.8 yards per game.

Navy has a bye on Oct. 18 and that gives the coaching staff an opportunity to give Reynolds two full weeks of rest in order to heal his dual injuries.


Some things to know about the VMI-Navy matchup:

SLOAN GETS THE BOOT: Navy placekicker Nick Sloan has missed five field goals this season, including three that affected the outcome of games. Niumatalolo announced Monday that Sloan would be replaced as placekicker and opened a competition between junior Austin Grebe and sophomore D.J. Grant-Johnson. It didn't take long for Grebe to grab the job. as he was named the new starter after out-kicking Grant-Johnson on Tuesday. Grebe has handled kickoffs for Navy the past two seasons.

TURNOVER-PRONE: Navy ranks 100th nationally in turnover margin, having committed 10 and forced only six. The Midshipmen have lost seven fumbles and tossed three interceptions. It's quite a turnaround from last year when Navy ranked No. 1 nationally in fewest turnovers. ''It's a bad deal. Last year, we led the nation in not turning the ball over and now this year we're almost the worst,'' offensive coordinator Ivan Jasper said.

RED ZONE WOES: Navy ranks 108th out of 125 Football Bowl Subdivision programs in red zone offense, scoring points on just 72 percent of trips inside the 25-yard line. Navy has reached the red zone 25 times this season and come away with 15 touchdowns and three field goals. Five missed field goals by Sloan have hurt, and the Midshipmen have also been best by turnovers deep in enemy territory.

NO SUCCESS ACROSS THE BORDER: VMI, which is located in Lexington, Virginia, will be seeking its first win in the state of Maryland since 1941, when the Keydets defeated the University of Maryland. Since then, VMI has lost five times to Navy and six times to Maryland.

CENTER OF ATTENTION: Navy saw its top two centers go down with injuries during the Air Force game. Starter Tanner Fleming aggravated an ankle injury during the second quarter and did not return and backup Blaze Ryder was knocked out with a shoulder injury in the fourth period. Fleming and Ryder are both expected to miss Saturday's game, and that's caused some shuffling of the offensive line. Starting left tackle Bradyn Heap will move to center and be replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Blake Copeland. Heap was recruited as a center and played that position his first year in Annapolis. Copeland will be making his collegiate debut.