Other than Stan Drayton himself, probably no one was happier about his hire than Florida running backs Emmanuel Moody and Chris Rainey.
“Man, he’s my favorite coach,” Rainey said.
Drayton played a key role in bringing Moody and Rainey to Florida, but the running backs coach left after the 2007 season to take the same position at arch-rival Tennessee. He left under less than perfect circumstances. Urban Meyer had suggested that Drayton find another job, but Meyer did not expect him to land at a chief UF rival. Once Drayton arrived at UT, he made some remarks about being glad to have a chance to coach tailbacks in a more conventional offense with a two-back set.
A year later, Drayton was left looking for a job again after Phil Fulmer was ousted in Knoxville. Drayton ended up at Syracuse last season.
When Kenny Carter left Florida at the end of the 2009 season to join Charlie Strong at Louisville, Meyer found himself looking for a new running backs coach. He targeted his former guy, Drayton, and the hire was made. When he accepted the job, Drayton said his relationship with Meyer had been good throughout, and he was thrilled to be back at Florida.
Moody and Rainey are happy about it, too.
Some are predicting Drayton’s hire may light the fire under Moody that has been missing for much of his injury-plagued UF career.
“I’m so glad Coach Drayton is here,” Moody said. “He’s a great coach. Coach Carter, we miss him and enjoyed the time we had with him. When I knew Coach Drayton was coming back I was really happy because he’s a great guy and he’s a big reason I came to this program. Him and Coach Meyer and Coach Mullen.
“He’s a familiar face, a familiar friend. I was really happy to see him come back to Florida.”
This spring is a new beginning for Moody. Not only does he have his favorite running backs coach back, he’s coming off ankle surgery and feeling good about how he will fit into a UF offense that now will see the quarterback (John Brantley) going under center and the Gators going with a two-back set at times.
“I’m trying to learn some new things in the new offense we’ve got, a few more things under center with John Brantley,” Moody said. “I’m trying to get a good chemistry with Brantley.
“I feel good, really good. Health-wise, I’m getting there. The ankle is not fully there, but it’s getting a lot better. I’m playing through it. It’s a new beginning for the whole team. Tebow is gone, Spikes is gone and a lot of the other leaders are gone. We feel like certain guys have to step up and a lot of new guys are in the lineup now. We’re really going to enjoy the team we have right now. We feel we have close friendships within the team.”
Moody and Rainey certainly have a friendship with Drayton.
Even though Rainey is working mostly with new wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni this spring to get comfortable in his new position (slot receiver), Rainey will go back to splitting time with Drayton in the fall as he tries to assume the Percy Harvin role in the offense.
“I have a good relationship with him,” Rainey said. “He’s my favorite coach.”