Brendan Sullivan, Deseret News
If he keeps it up, David Reed could be the most prolific pass receiver in Utah football history.
For a season, anyway.
That would be nothing new for Reed, who set a national junior college record with 111 catches for Pasadena City College in 2007.
After grabbing 25 passes a year ago — when Freddie Brown, Bradon Godfrey and Brent Casteel were the main targets for Utah quarterback Brian Johnson — Reed has become the go-to guy for the Utes and quarterback Terrance Cain.
Through five games, Reed has already surpassed last year's numbers with 35 catches for 500 yards.
If he keeps up his seven-catches-per-game average, Reed will finish with 91 catches in 13 games (we're assuming Utah makes a bowl game). That would easily break Paris Warren's school record of 80 receptions set in 2004.
Yardage-wise, Reed is on pace to finish with 1,300 yards, which would bust the single-season mark of 1,145 set by Carl Harry in 1988.
Because he is just a two-year player, Reed won't end up the career leader in catches or yards, although he will likely end up in the top 10 or 15 in each category.
Reed is a quiet, soft-spoken young man, not a rah-rah type at all. He is known as a hard worker who gets the job done on the field with little fanfare.
"He's been our go-to guy and that's not a secret," said Aaron Roderick, the Utah receivers coach. "We're trying to get him the ball as many ways as we can. He's a smooth and fluid athlete with a natural ability to find the ball in the air, something that you can't coach. Some guys can find it and adjust to it, and David has that."
If you ask Reed about his strong points, he says little. "Running routes ... I can catch the ball ... I work hard ... I love to compete."
He doesn't even mention his speed, saying he needs to "work on it."
That makes Roderick laugh.
"He's pretty fast," Roderick says. "He's a 4.4, one of the fastest on our team. And he can change direction on a dime."
Coach Kyle Whittingham calls Reed "a very gifted receiver," with "a great blend of speed and quickness and exceptional hands."
But those aren't his best attributes.
"His strongest suit is body control," he says. "He can go up and get a ball. He's very acrobatic. Even when he's covered, he's not covered because he can go get the ball out of the air."
For Reed, it's been a circuitous journey to end up in Utah. He was born in Iowa, played high school ball in Connecticut and junior college football in California. He was recruited by Roderick and former assistant coach Charlie Dickey.
He was also recruited by many top schools, including Kentucky and Mississippi, and even Florida showed some interest in him. However, poor academics scared a lot of schools away.
"My situation was pretty bad," Reed said. "But Utah had a lot of faith in me. They stuck with me, so I stuck with them."
Roderick said Reed is "doing great" academically and has come a long way.
"He had a very serious academic challenge in front of him and he got it done," he said. "It was amazing what he had to accomplish to get here. He would have been more highly recruited had his grades been better. We were willing to wait. He got it done and passed classes."
Because he was finishing summer school in 2008, Reed arrived just a week before the start of fall camp. He was one of the Utes' kickoff returners right away, but it took him awhile to get warmed up as a receiver. He had his three best games in the last three — against San Diego State, BYU and Alabama — getting four catches in each game and scoring four touchdowns.
This year, Reed started with a bang, with 10 catches against Utah State for 172 yards and a touchdown. Last week at Colorado State, he caught nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown that may have turned the game around. The 47-yard TD was one of those catches Roderick and Whittingham talked about, a deep ball he found over the defensive back.
Aside from all his physical skills, perhaps what sets Reed apart is his tremendous work ethic.
"He's a great practice player," Roderick said. "He practices hard every day. He leads the pack in everything, on the field, in the weight room. He's just an extremely hard worker, a focused and driven guy."
"I never take anything lightly, never take a day off," says Reed. "I treat every game the same. I'm going to come out strong and practice hard and get ready for the next one."
David Reed file
35 receptions (T-19th in nation)
500 yards (17th in nation)
7 KO returns for 151 yards
134 all-purpose yards per game (40th in nation)
Utes on the air
No. 24 Utah (4-1, 1-0 MWC) at UNLV (2-4, 0-2)
Saturday, 8 p.m.
Sam Boyd Stadium
TV: The mtn. Radio: 700 AM
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