The Florida Gators have been at the forefront of the college football world the past few years.
A staunch defense, Tim Tebow and some explosive athletes.
The Gators were expected to repeat last season, but they were missing one key ingredient: a dangerous weapon that could make things happen in the open field.
They had Aaron Hernandez as a dynamic safety valve. Riley Cooper stepped up big time to take over the lead receiver position. After that, they didn't have many other weapons to turn to.
To put it frankly, they sorely missed Percy Harvin.
With new wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni in tow, the Gators lit up the scoreboard against Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl. Bowl games may not mean much in the big scheme of things, but the Gators did figure some things out that could carry over into this season.
Most importantly, they found a way to effectively use Chris Rainey.
Playing the slot, Rainey caught four passes for 71 yards. He then pulled a Percy and stepped into the backfield to rush four times for 27 yards and a touchdown. He also had a 29-yard average kick return, including a 51-yarder. These were not out-of-this-world numbers, but they were a good sign of things to come.
Basically, he was everything the Gators were looking for all season. They just didn't try hard enough to find a solution to the hole Harvin left behind because they simply had more talent than everyone they played all season. What they were doing was working, as they piled up win after win. But it was clear a championship ingredient was missing, and it all came crashing down when they collided with brick-wall Alabama.
This season, Rainey is poised to take his game to the next level. I won't say he is the new Percy Harvin, but we will call him “Percy Lite.” And that's quite alright, even half a Percy is more dangerous than most players that take the field in college football.
Although Rainey is not quite as dynamic as Harvin, I think he could develop into college football's most dynamic weapon this season. What Rainey lacks in talent compared to Harvin, will be more than made up for by the teammates surrounding him.
John Brantley takes over at quarterback, which will open up the field much more than the past few seasons. Teams won't clog the lanes to stop the Tebow battering ram, which will create more spaces for Rainey to work in. A passing quarterback as dynamite as Brantley will completely open things up for the offense.
More importantly, Brantley will have a plethora of weapons to choose from on every play. Florida's once bare cupboard at wide receiver is suddenly teeming with talent this season (check here for an in-depth look at Florida's wide receivers ).
Defenses won't be able to key on any one player. They won't know who to stop on any given play.
And that makes Rainey a very dangerous option.
If teams key on Rainey, someone else will exploit a weakness. But if Rainey is in single coverage and allowed to make things happen in space, watch out.
There is never a shortage of explosive playmakers in college football. But next season, Rainey may be the one you see making more “Did you see what he just did?!” highlights than anyone in college football last year.
No one could ever make Gators fans forget Percy Harvin, but Rainey will certainly make them forget that large void left by Harvin when he went to the pros in 2009.
It's Chris Rainey's turn in the spotlight, and he will make the most of it. It's time for you to get acquainted with college football's most dangerous weapon.
Make it Rain, Chris.