Forecast: Rainey days ahead
Published: Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 5:31 p.m.
Bigger. Stronger. Just as fast.
That's Chris Rainey as he heads into his sophomore season for top-ranked Florida.
"I've gained about 12 pounds (up to 181 on his 5-foot-9 frame)," the Gators' sophomore running back said. "I've been working out hard and eating right."
He said his diet no longer includes McDonald's, and he is comfortable with the new muscle. Rainey also said he and fellow tailback Jeff Demps remain the defending BCS champion's fastest players.
Rainey's role also is expanding, according to offensive coordinator Steve Addazio.
"I think Chris is obviously a dynamic player, but he's learning the whole offense," Addazio said of Rainey, who had 84 carries for 652 yards and four touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. "It's not just when he has the ball in his hands.
"He's realizing he's got other things he needs to do now, too, like how good is the top end of his route when he's in an empty (backfield set).
"So, he's become more detailed on everything right now."
Coach Urban Meyer echoed those thoughts.
"It's like night and day," Meyer said of comparing today's Rainey to the one in August 2008. "His attention to detail and maturity are raised. His demeanor ... I can't say enough good things about Chris.
"I'm anxious to see him contribute now. He was a role player last year, which means we simply handed him the ball and hoped everything worked out."
Meyer added that checking out of a play or asking Rainey to pick up a blitzing linebacker on a called pass were not options last season when the Lakeland native was on the field.
"(His role won't be) completely different, but it's getting closer to completely different," Meyer said. "Playing tailback in this offense, you need to do more than run to your right or run to your left.
"So, he's going to be a much different player."
Gator teammates have noticed.
Safety Major Wright's Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas team faced Rainey's Lakeland Dreadnaughts for the FHSAA Class 5A state championship each year from 2004-06. Wright said Rainey is much more fun to have as a teammate than to chase as a rival — especially the new, improved Rainey.
"Back then, Chris was always just the little guy who would get the ball and go," Wright said. "In high school you can do that, but in college, there is more reading, (more) technique ... there's more to do.
"He's starting to mature and become that back."
Contact John Patton at 352-374-5074 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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