Adarius Rayner didn’t even play football until his sophomore year of high school because he was overweight growing up. Now, his size and versatility on the defensive line has become an asset for Indiana’s new 3-4 defensive scheme.
The 6-2, 307 pound lineman is listed on IU’s depth chart as a starting defensive tackle, but in the 3-4, Rayner can switch to the outside and play end or line up across from the center as a nose guard.
“He can athletically rush off the edge and at over 300 pounds is physical enough to play inside,” said new IU defensive coordinator Brian Knorr of Rayner’s versatility.
The coaching staff is hoping that his athleticism and size will help strengthen a defense that, in large part because of the line, surrendered nearly 240 rushing yards per game and accumulated just 20 sacks in 2013.
Growing up in Largo, Fla., Rayner was a basketball player and never got into little league football because he was overweight. As a sophomore in high school, Rayner decided it was time to try on the shoulder pads.
“My aunt was like ‘you should try something new,’” Rayner said. “I was just a big kid, so I tried football.” Rayner was still a four-year letter winner in hoops, but his football skills turned heads and warranted offers from IU, Iowa State and Colorado State.
One of 11 Floridians on IU’s roster, Rayner believes that the level of high school play helped him adjust right away to a faster pace.
“I think it helped with the speed of the game,” Rayner said. “In Florida, everyone’s faster so when I got to the next level it made it easy. It helped out a lot.”
After redshirting as a freshman in 2011, Rayner appeared in seven contests in 2012, and recorded a sack and two pass breakups versus Michigan State. This past season, Rayner appeared in 11 games, including starts against Indiana State and Ohio State. Rayner collected a sack and a tackle for loss in each of the first two games of 2013.
Now, as a redshirt junior, he believes that experience will help translate to a better 2014.
“I think it’s helped me mature,” Rayner said. “It’s helped me mentally overall to know what I’m going up against and how to approach it.”
While footwork has been a strength for Rayner since his basketball days, he is still working to improve his strength and physicality, an aspect of his game he has been trying to build on since day one at IU.
“I’ve been working on my hands as well, that’s a big part of the D-line,” Rayner said.
Another constant for Rayner in his time at IU has been his bond with fellow defensive lineman Bobby Richardson. Rayner attended Largo High School while Richardson was just across Tampa Bay at Plant High School. The bond has become closer since coming north to Bloomington.
“That’s my roommate and we’ve been here since day one together,” Rayner said. “We both help each other. I look up to him, he looks up to me.”
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