When Bradley Roby ran afoul of common sense and good judgment, Armani Reeves quickly learned what it meant to be an elite college football cornerback. It takes speed, instinct, balance, delicate hands, etc. — a smorgasbord of skills. He’ll be the first to admit maybe he didn’t have all those attributes last season.
A year of coaching and experience has added seasoning to Reeves’ game. He used the spring to hone his skills and become acclimated to a new scheme. The aggressive style suits Reeves’ physical nature better than last year’s loose coverage philosophy. In defensive breakdowns, Reeves was often the scapegoat if he was on the field.
Those are memories Reeves would like to draw motivation from, but keep them in the past. As a four-star recruit, he didn’t anticipate on-field troubles and backlash from fans. But the passage of time – and a solid showing in the spring game – heals lingering wounds.
“It’s a fresh start. I can’t worry about what happened last year or even my freshman year,” Reeves said. “I’ve got to worry about what’s going on right now and in the future, working on my game and helping the young guys work on their game, too.”
Reeves left spring practice as the defacto starter at cornerback opposite senior Doran Grant. But Reeves’ position is very much up for grabs, with a yearlong competition and rotation likely. Those young guys he referenced would be Eli Apple and Gareon Conley. The redshirt freshmen will play in 2014.
The brief glimpses of Reeves this spring should remove fans’ fear regarding the junior. He’s stronger, giving him an even bigger advantage in a press coverage setting. With a powerful upper body, Reeves is able to dictate wide receiver movements and disrupt routes.
“It’s a fresh start. I can’t worry about what happened last year or even my freshman year.”– Armani Reeves
Adding muscle became an offseason event for Reeves. He describes himself as a workout freak who’s focused on strength and speed. It’s two areas Reeves can use to his advantage and consistently win matchups against receivers.
The same language and words were used by the secondary – dream. They relish the opportunity to get in the grill of opposing pass catchers.
“You see it every Sunday,” Reeves said. “All you see is Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson. They’re sitting there pressed up, doing their thing. That’s what you dream of. If you have that mentality every play, great things are going to happen.”
When attitude and approach is discussed, cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs rushes to the aid of Reeves. He knows what happened last season in three starts. And Coombs hears the negativity, but he also watches practice every day with perfect vision zoning in on the corners.
Coombs sees no one working harder than Reeves, deeming him the “standard” in the defensive backfield as far as work ethic is defined and characterized.
“Anybody that’s watched him play, you never have a question about how hard he’s going to go,” Coombs said. “So he’s already got that, and what a great thing for him. When I walk into my meeting room and I say, ‘OK, who’s the hardest playing guy in this room?’ Day 1, that’s what I asked my guys in my unit, and they all said ‘Armani.’”
Reeves displays humility and gratitude when he hears coaches and players send compliments his way. All corners have a dose of brashness, too, and Reeves doesn’t stray from that mold. He’s confident in his abilities and won’t back down from telling those who are listening.
Becoming comfortable with all that’s been presented to him is how Reeves got to this point. The system fits, he’s grown to be valued. There’s no tiptoeing anymore. He admitted that the only direction to go is up, something that’s kept him hungry since the Orange Bowl ended.
“I feel confident,” Reeves said. “I’m going to play with confidence and know that I can do this job. I’m not worried about it at all.”