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UND FOOTBALL: Reyes' turn to lead defense

When UND starting quarterback Keaton Studsrud lines up at practice and surveys the defense, he makes sure to keep tabs on Fighting Hawks safety Cole Reyes.

UND's Cole Reyes returns the ball in a recent practice. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
UND's Cole Reyes returns the ball in a recent practice. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

When UND starting quarterback Keaton Studsrud lines up at practice and surveys the defense, he makes sure to keep tabs on Fighting Hawks safety Cole Reyes.

"When he's in zone, you have to look out for him," Studsrud said. "He makes all of the big plays. He's a gamer."

As the 2016 season plays outs, Studsrud won't be the only quarterback making sure he knows where No. 8 is on defense.

With former UND linebacker Will Ratelle now in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons, Reyes will be asked to be the Fighting Hawks' defensive leader.

Reyes, an all-Big Sky Conference selection as a sophomore and a preseason all-league pick this year, has made 130 tackles and grabbed two interceptions in his 19 career games.

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"He has a knack for making plays," UND defensive coordinator Eric Schmidt said. "He's good instinctually and a good tackler. He has all of the traits you look for in a safety. We always say as a defensive staff, he could play five positions on defense from the standpoint of a body type and skill set."

Reyes is listed at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds.

"He's got some God-gifted talents," Schmidt said. "We're looking forward to seeing how well he plays and seeing him healthy this fall. He's had the best summer he's had since he's been here."

UND went through its first live scrimmage of fall camp Saturday at Memorial Stadium and Reyes only played a few downs despite being fully healthy. Fighting Hawks coach Bubba Schweigert didn't want to risk an injury.

The extra rest at the scrimmage speaks to the value UND places on Reyes. Even UND All-American running back John Santiago took a few carries at the scrimmage.

"He's going to be a huge factor for our defense this year," UND linebacker Connor O'Brien said. "Cole is a huge playmaker, and we need him on our side of the ball."

Reyes, a native of Chicago suburb Schaumburg, Ill., came to Grand Forks after passing up a number of other FCS offers in the midwest. Teams offered Reyes to play on both sides of the ball, as he was both a standout wide receiver and defensive back.

The decision came down to UND and Northern Iowa. After an aggressive recruiting process by former UND assistant Luke Schleusner, Reyes opted to come to North Dakota.

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Many expected Reyes to play as a true freshman but a broken hand in fall camp meant a redshirt season in 2013.

Injuries have been a nagging presence in Reyes' college career. As a redshirt freshman, he made 10 starts and finished fifth on the team with 59 tackles. However, he also suffered a jaw injury in the season opener against San Jose State that cost him the next two games.

As a sophomore, Reyes made nine starts and finished second on the team with 71 tackles, including 50 solo stops. He missed two games in the middle of the season due to a knee injury. He was sorely missed in UND's 37-31 loss to Idaho State, a crucial setback in the Fighting Hawks' FCS playoff chances a year ago.

Reyes said he isn't feeling any lingering effects of last season's injury.

Keeping Reyes on the field will be important for UND in terms of both production and leadership.

"I think he brings a lot of leadership qualities; the guys respect him," Schmidt said. "If your best players are your hardest workers, your team is going to be successful."

Reyes said he's embracing a larger role without Ratelle in the middle.

"It makes me work harder," Reyes said. "I'm trying to help the younger guys and get everyone on the same page and give them someone to look to. I wouldn't trade this position for anything else."

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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