One player fighting for a cornerback spot is Derrick Rainey. Under the previous coaching staff, Rainey wasn't given much of a chance, but with the arrival of Rich Rodriguez and his assistants, Rainey has seen plenty of the field during offseason practices and often lines up with the first string.
During Stoops' tenure many of the cornerbacks were compact players with decent speed, but history shows that Rodriguez and defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel like putting bigger bodies outside. At 6-foot-1 and around 185-pounds, Rainey fits that mold pretty well.
His body of work doesn't show much. Rainey finally saw action for the first time in college as a sophomore a season ago, but his appearances on the field were few and far between. He finished the season playing in seven games and collecting two tackles.
Rainey should see that production increase significantly given the fact that he has been given the opportunity to earn a role this offseason and hasn't disappointed.
Given that the defense that Casteel runs tends to carry an extra defensive back or two on the field, Rainey should see the field plenty as long as he continues to impress when fall camp arrives.
The biggest hurdle for Rainey is his lack of game experience at the college level, but that obstacle could prove to be miniscule compared to how far he has come since arriving on campus in 2009.
Casteel runs a tight ship on defense and with Rainey being the style of athlete that can thrive in the defensive coordinator's scheme, he could prove to be one of the biggest surprises in the upcoming campaign.
At the very minimum, expect Rainey to see an ample amount of playing time even if he isn't a starter. His athleticism will permit him to line up at different positions and take on different roles as a defensive back in the 3-3-5.
Assuming the period of adjustment is quick for Rainey, he could develop into one of the defense's most important players in 2012.