Rainey making most of 2nd chance with Gators
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)
This time last year, Chris Rainey made a huge mistake.
It cost the Florida running back five games, tarnished his reputation and hampered the Gators. He was arrested on an aggravated stalking charge for allegedly sending a threatening text to a former girlfriend, spent a night in jail and was kicked off the team the next day.
A month later, the Gators gave him a second chance.
Rainey has proven to be worthy of it. Coach Will Muschamp said Rainey has done everything asked of him off the field and in the community. On the field, his contribution has been obvious.
Rainey is the only player in the nation to lead his team in rushing and receiving after two weeks. He has 198 yards rushing, 110 yards receiving and has scored four touchdowns for the 16th-ranked Gators (2-0).
''He's getting the ball a lot,'' quarterback John Brantley said Monday. ''He's been our go-to guy really so far, and hopefully he'll keep going out there making the plays he has been making.''
In the opener, a 41-3 win over Florida Atlantic, Rainey became the first player in school history to score touchdowns rushing, receiving and on a return in the same game. He finished with 146 total yards and said afterward that offensive coordinator Charlie Weis only used six plays.
''For Rainey to try to give you an analysis of what we're doing, that's comical in its own right,'' Weis said.
The Gators would rather Rainey stick to what he does best: running with the football. Against UAB on Saturday, he carried 16 times for 119 yards and a score. He also caught three passes for 43 yards.
His numbers could have been even better, but he had a 32-yard TD run called back because of a holding penalty and another long run negated.
Florida got creative with Rainey, too. He carried the ball on a reverse and took several snaps in the wildcat formation.
''I liked it. I hope we keep doing it,'' Rainey said. ''You can see everything. You see like five different holes and you've just got to choose one.''
The wrinkles may have been put in just to cause extra work for this weekend's opponent, rival Tennessee (2-0).
The Volunteers have a relatively young defense, especially in the front seven, and could be tested against Rainey and fellow running back Jeff Demps. Tennessee gave up 277 yards on the ground against Montana and Cincinnati, allowing 4.9 yards a carry.
Demps left Saturday's game against UAB with an undisclosed injury and did not return. Muschamp said he expects the NCAA champion sprinter to practice this week and be ready for Tennessee.
The Volunteers know what to expect. The Gators ran 49 times for 150 yards in last year's 31-17 victory in Knoxville.
''Speed, speed, speed,'' Vols coach Derek Dooley said. ''Fast and elusive. They use them for return games, they use them to block punts. They're all over the field. They're faster than everybody out there. They have playmaking ability, so they have that competitive character that they want to make that impact play of the game. You combine those two things - watch out.''
Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead ran 14 times for 155 yards against the Volunteers last week, including a 65-yard score on his first carry.
Rainey already has Tennessee's attention.
''We watched some (film) this morning, and there were a couple plays where he made a one-step cut and you see one guy fall down, and then he does it three or four times in one game,'' Vols defensive tackle Daniel Hood said. ''Someone like that, we're going to have to gang tackle because it's going to be hard to bring him down one on one.''
Rainey missed last year's game at Tennessee. He was arrested Sept. 14, 2010, and suspended the following day.
His repetitions went to Demps, who badly sprained his left foot against the Vols and wasn't the same the rest of the season. Neither was Florida.
With Rainey out and Demps hurting, the Gators lost consecutive games to Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State. Florida reinstated Rainey after he agreed to a plea deal on a lesser charge and he returned for the final six games. Teammates said he was a changed person back then.
''Chris has grown up,'' Brantley said.
Muschamp sees it, too.
''When you walk on the practice field, there's certain guys every single day that you see football is really important to them,'' Muschamp said. ''Football's really important to Chris. You see how he competes, how he handles himself, how he approaches the meetings and how he goes on the field and works at practice.
''Anytime you have something taken away from you that's important to you, you find out a lot about yourself and about how important it is to you.''
AP Sports Writer Beth Rucker in Knoxville, Tenn., contributed to this report.