Rainey ready to thrive in Florida's new pro-style offense


Florida running back Chris Rainey has been the standout player of the spring, according to new head coach Will Muschamp. (Photo courtesy of UF Communications)

Published: Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 7:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 7:35 p.m.

Following his September arrest and subsequent five-game suspension, Chris Rainey returned to the Florida football team last season and did some good things, making a positive contribution.

But he never really seemed back. The player, maybe. But not the person, the personality. The usually smiling, fun-loving, well-liked kid from Lakeland seemed to retreat within himself.

He kept his mouth shut and his head down.




Four months later, Chris Rainey is now all the way back — the player and the personality.

The senior tailback talked to the media Thursday for the first time since his Sept. 14 arrest for aggravated stalking — and that old Rainey charm and contagious smile brightened the room.

“New team, new leaders, new system,” Rainey said. “That's the way I look at it.”

With a new coaching staff on board, this spring is a new start for every Gator. But maybe even more so for Rainey, coming off his tumultuous fall, one that saw him booted off the team after his arrest.

Rainey went to jail for texting a former girlfriend and telling her it was “time to die.”

Two weeks later, the case was resolved when Rainey accepted deferred prosecution on a reduced charge of misdemeanor stalking, and he was reinstated to the team.

A few weeks later, Rainey returned to the lineup at slot receiver in the Gators' overtime victory over Georgia.

Looking back, Rainey said he has grown up a great deal in the past seven months.

“I did a lot of thinking,” he said. “I tried to look past that and to the future. Yeah, (I was worried I might not ever play here again). But I didn't want to think about that. It was scary.”

Urban Meyer gave Rainey a second chance.

Now he's got another one with Will Muschamp, although one might say it's more like a new lease on his playing career.

After playing three sometimes-frustrating years in a spread offense, Rainey finds himself back in his old tailback position and in an offense that reminds him of his star high school days, when he was lining up deep in the I-formation and breaking loose for long run after long run for Lakeland High.

“When I get the ball, I can just read the whole field,” he said. “They give me a chance to read the field and do what I want to do. There's more flexibility and freedom. It's a lot of fun. It's like I'm in high school again.”

While some are still struggling to pick up aspects of Charlie Weis' pro-style offense, Rainey said he's had no trouble adjusting.

“For me, it's easy because I've been like that since high school,” he said. “It ain't that hard for me.

“It's basically like the NFL. Yeah, it feels like the NFL. I love it. I'm comfortable in that system after the other years just being quarterback runs and stuff like that (in the spread).”

Rainey has been performing like a player who is comfortable in the offense. Earlier this week, Muschamp said that Rainey has been the offensive star of the spring, breaking numerous runs.

Muschamp said lining Rainey up seven or eight yards deep in the backfield plays to his strengths — his vision and cutting ability.

“He's a guy that makes an awful lot of plays,” Muschamp said. “Getting the ball to him deeper in the backfield helps him. He's got great vision and cutback ability, and bounce-ability. You've got to be really gap sound on him in the run game.”

Rainey said the new offense seems to be a good fit for a lot of players, including quarterback John Brantley and the wide receivers.

“There is a lot of excitement, a lot of big plays and a lot more people involved,” Rainey said. “It's just a lot of fun. The fans are going to be happy again.

“The first thing (Weis) said was this is the most athletes he'd ever been around. We felt good about that one.”

Rainey said he feels good about himself again after a rough and humbling 2010 season.

“I'm more serious now, more focused to do everything right,” he said. “I'm looking forward to being a leader.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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