It’s hard to imagine somebody who is already a Heisman candidate a third of the way into the season as a secret weapon.
But believe it or not, he really is.
The diminutive Rainey has become known and feared by opponents- except for Alabama.
In three games against the Crimson Tide, he has compiled 3 carries for 9 yards. Not exactly Heisman type numbers. Then again, he never really played against them. He left the 2008 SEC Championship Game with a groin pull early, then hurt himself again a year later in the 2009 SEC Championship Game. And then of course there was last year, when Rainey didn’t even play at all because he was suspended from the team.
So this is Alabama’s first chance to see what this guy is all about.
And he’s all about speed.
You can watch all the tape you want. But if you do not have that type of speed on your team to practice against, you can’t really know what it’s going to be like until you face him in a game. Trent Richardson is a great running back, but not even he has the RPG’s Rainey has. Rainey won’t be running people over like Richardson, or even like Tebow, but he is a shifty running back that can make even the best tacklers miss.
You know all of that.
Funny thing is, Alabama doesn’t. Sure, they might know in THEORY that he’s more elusive as a greased pig (sorry Arkansas fans) but until you try tackling him you can’t know for sure. Of course, none of us have tried tackling Rainey either, but we’ve spent the past four years watching other teams try to and mostly fail.
Perhaps the most dangerous thing about Rainey is when he DOESN’T have the ball. Florida also has this guy named Jeff Demps who may have a little speed as well. With people keying on Rainey, Demps can find a runway and take off, like he did against Kentucky. Of course, Kentucky is just a drug but just because you do something when you’re under the influence doesn’t mean you can’t do it in reality- just means it might not happen. But freeing up Rainey is definitely something to try.
If I’m Charlie Weis, I don’t use Rainey a whole lot early in the game. I would let Alabama psyche themselves out and overstress stopping Rainey so we can test out the above theory. It’s not like Rainey is our only playmaker, far from it. Whatever Weis does, he should use a heavy dose of Demps and Gillislee in the first half, only use Rainey when he really needs big yards.
Charlie Weis has always said that he will wait another year to fully install his pro-style offense with pro-style personnel. Until then, he’s just going to ride the talent he has. That’s a great way to be, since you’ll get the best production out of them in ways you won’t get the best production out of guys like Mack Brown or Mike Davis. But he hasn’t had the chance to fully unleash them against great opponents… yet.
I’m still not convinced he’s fully shown his playbook. I’ve always thought that he should keep a lot of it bottled up for Alabama and Georgia (I don’t care how bad they might be I HATE losing to Georgia in ANYTHING).
What else might he show?
I’ve been waiting for Weis to unveil the diamond spread, which isn’t really a spread as much as it is a diamond. It’s where a QB, and three receivers/running backs line up in a diamond shape behind center, and the QB can pitch, hand it off on a counter/sweep/dive play, throw a swing pass, run an option (though not with Brantley, noooooooo way), or even throw a bomb to any one of them. The Gators are completely equipped to run that, as you can use any combination of Demps, Rainey, Burton, Hines, Hammond, Debose, Dunbar and Gillislee- all of whom are really fast and can shake tackles. All the QB needs to do is throw accurate swing passes so the guy is catching it running downhill, and Brantley has done that very well this year.
Maybe Alabama has speed on defense, but they wouldn’t be able to stop that. And even if I’m just dreaming and Weis never even thinks of it, it’s very difficult to stop a guy you’ve never really played against before. The Tide defense can work all they want on shooting gaps and pressuring the QB, which they’re very good at, but the problem is, if Weis does his job, Rainey won’t be in the backfield and Alabama won’t have a chance to blow up the play- because Rainey won’t be there.
He’ll be off and running, and with him, the Florida Gators on his back.