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September 19, 2011

Running backs carrying the receiving load

John Brantley will take what the opponents offer up.

In the Gators first three games, opposing defenses have offered him an open Chris Rainey or Jeff Demps more often than they have allowed UF's receivers to get open.

Rainey leads the team so far with 11 receptions while Demps is second in receiving with eight catches of his own.

Opponents seem to forget that in the 2010 Sugar Bowl, and the following off season, Rainey was considered a wide receiver. He was suspended last fall over an off-the-field issue involving a threatening text message and briefly dismissed from the team. When he returned, the speedster found more playing time out of the backfield.

Rainey, who is a running back in the Charlie Weis offense, is often being left wide open in the flat and uncovered on screen routes. As a result, the fifth-year senior is on his way to producing a lengthy highlight film.

As the Gators' top target, Rainey is the only player to reach triple-digit receiving yards (214) or multiple touchdowns (two) so far.

Rainey's strong start is getting noticed outside of Gainesville. The SEC co-Offensive Player of the Week is familiar to the casual college football fan watching SportsCenter at this point in the season.

And if they haven't already, soon opposing defensive coordinators will also take notice.

When opponents start to cover the Gators running backs, the receivers will get their chance to make their own highlights.

Senior Deonte Thompson leads the designated starting receivers with seven receptions for 93 yards going into the Kentucky game. Frankie Hammond Jr. was praised as the most consistent receiver in practice, but did not have a reception in Saturday's game against Tennessee. Potential deep threat Quinton Dunbar has an average of less than two catches per game.

On Monday Brantley reiterated his confidence in all the receivers.

"I think the receivers have done a fine job," Brantley said. "I trust them no matter what happens. I'm going to keep throwing to them, and I trust that they're going to be able to get open."

If the Wildcats focus on covering Rainey and Demps Saturday night, he will have an opportunity to demonstrate that with actions rather than words.

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