Virginia cornerback Nick Grant said he and senior Joe Reed are best friends and locker mates, and he said he can always tell when his friend is about to take a kickoff to the house.
That feeling spread across the Virginia sideline in the second quarter of Friday’s home opener against William & Mary.
“You feel when he’s about to return it,” Grant said. “Every touchdown he’s had, I’ve known he was about to score.”
Reed said three yards is the cut off for bringing a kickoff out of the end zone. He doesn’t think his only return in Friday’s 52-17 blowout win over the Tribe was anywhere close to that, but even if it was he wouldn’t admit it.
“If they ask me, I’ll say ‘Nah,’” Reed said with a smirk.
As soon as Reed caught the ball, he saw his blockers flowing to the left and followed them all the way down the home sideline and sprinted past a Tribe defender, who was diving at his ankles, and into the end zone.
“It was just preparation. We watched film on them all week, and we knew they were going to crash hard,” said Reed, who gave the credit to his teammates. “Well coached, well blocked and well executed.”
Reed came into his senior season as the Cavaliers’ all-time leading kick returner, and if Friday was any indication, those records may be unreachable by the end of the season.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Charlotte Courthouse native owns Virginia’s records for career kick return yards (2,394) and touchdowns (4). He’s the fourth player in UVa history to return a kick 100 yards and the only player in program history to return a kick for a touchdown in three separate seasons.
“He’s a great player with great work ethic, and he will not cease until he attains all the goals he has set for himself,” Grant said.
Reed admitted Friday night that he was surprised William & Mary kicked to him. It caught Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall a bit off guard, too.
“I was hopeful it would be,” Mendenhall said. “Joe is the best kick returner that I’ve had a chance to coach. He’s got amazing speed and just has a knack and great vision and is very dynamic.”
Reed isn’t just saving his dynamic athleticism for special teams this season, though. He opened the season with a career-high seven catches against Pittsburgh. Against William & Mary, he tied Tavares Kelly with a team-high four receptions and led the Cavaliers’ receivers with 58 yards.
Last season, Reed caught just 25 passes. Two games into this fall, he’s already almost halfway to matching that total, and he attributes much of his success to Virginia’s newly discovered depth.
“It’s almost unreal how many weapons we have,” he said. “Anybody can make big plays in our offense really.”
Virginia is in action at home again on Saturday as Florida State comes to town for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.