PROVO — Once BYU's season ends, Matt Reynolds has a big decision to make.
For now, the Cougars' junior left tackle is concentrating on the next game — against UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl.
But will it be his last game in a Cougar uniform?
Reynolds must choose whether to return to Provo for his senior year or enter the 2011 National Football League draft.
Dating back to last spring, mock drafts have projected Reynolds as a first-round pick, assuming he forgoes his final year of eligibility. Reynolds, who is close to graduating, is expected to request an evaluation from the NFL's College Advisory Committee for underclassmen, which should give him a good idea what round he would be drafted in should he leave school early. Underclassmen have until mid-January to declare their intentions. Meanwhile, a possible lockout looming over the NFL could affect the decisions of many underclassmen.
Certainly, the decision to stay or go will have a major impact on him and on the BYU football program.
"I've thought about it, for sure. As far as decisions go, we haven't made any," said the 6-foot-6, 329-pounder this week. "We're still kind of waiting before we make a decision. I'm just looking forward to the (New Mexico Bowl) and focused on that right now."
Asked about the factors that will play into the decision, Reynolds said, "I'm sure a lot of things. There are considerations with family and school. That's a decision you've got to try to take as much into account as you can. I'm just trying to focus on the last game and making sure I perform the way I need to there."
Reynolds, who starred at Timpview High, served a mission and redshirted before becoming BYU's starter at left tackle for the opening game of the 2008 season as a freshman. He's started every game since — a total of 38 consecutive starts, helping to anchor the offensive line the past three seasons. A team captain and two-time first-team All-Mountain West Conference performer, Reynolds gave up just one sack this year.
Still, this season has been a trying one for Reynolds, as he has dealt with injuries, particularly to his shoulder.
"Matt has done a good job. He's had to battle through some tough injuries," said BYU offensive line coach Mark Weber. "But he has played through some things that a lot of guys would not play with. He's played through some pain and done a very nice job considering all that. He has toughness and competitiveness and love for the game and this team. He's a captain of this team and he wanted to play as long as he could play."
Weber said Reynolds compares favorably with all the outstanding offensive linemen he has coached in his career. "He is very good college football player and left tackle. He can really be a great one."
Is Reynolds ready right now for the NFL? "I don't know," Weber said. "One thing that has hurt a little bit is the injuries. If he's not ready, it's because of the injuries. Potentially, he has the ability to be an NFL player."
Weber and Reynolds have talked about the future, but Weber said he's not going to influence his player one way or another.
"This will be a decision he and his family will make, whatever is best for him. I want whatever's best for the guy. If a guy is able to be a high draft pick at his age, that's awesome. It's whatever's best for him. Not every guy is in that boat, but I think that stuff will all be very clear once we're done with the season."
When it comes time to decide his future, Reynolds will talk to his wife, Brianna, as well as his father, BYU assistant head coach Lance Reynolds (who played in the NFL), and his older brothers, Lance Jr., and Dallas, who are former Cougars, and younger brother Houston, who is a backup BYU O-lineman.
"It would be wise to utilize as many resources as you have," Matt Reynolds said. "I've got a big resource in my dad, and my brothers, and others I've come in contact with through the years."
"When the season's over we'll talk about it," Lance Reynolds said. "We talked about it during the summer and we decided to talk about it again when the season's over. It's counterproductive to talk about it during the year. We'll see what happens."
Lance Reynolds, who has coached at BYU for 28 seasons, isn't Matt's position coach, but he recognizes the talent his son possesses.
"He's a good player. He's got a lot of God-given gifts and he's been well-coached. He has got everything you'd like an O-lineman to have, skill set-wise," he said. "He's fluid and he's big and he's long. He's played really well and he's had a good year. He's left in the third quarter in a few games because of his (injured) shoulder. It's hard for me to talk about him because he's my son. Everybody thinks when I talk about him, it's because he's mine. But he's a special guy. His brothers who played all know it, that he's a special guy."
New Mexico Bowl
BYU (6-6) vs. UTEP (6-6)
Dec. 18, noon
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM