As a true freshman he displayed the skill that made him a first team All-Dade County selection as a senior at Miami (Fla.) Central High School. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Gaines appeared in seven games last season, recording 11 receptions for 172 yards and a touchdown.
The 2013 season had the look of a breakout season for Gaines. While the sophomore has had a stellar season to date, it has come from the other side of the ball.
When the Cardinals opened spring practice in March, the coaches moved Gaines from receiver to cornerback. Playing the position for the first time in his career, Gaines had his struggles, but he also displayed excellent potential by leading the team in interceptions during spring ball.
"His play has really improved," defensive backs coach Tommy Restivo told Cardinal Authority last week. "We're high on Gaines. He needs to keep coming to work every day to get better, which he is."
His form continued to improve in fall camp, when he again led the team in interceptions. His ability to learn the position and responsiblities helped him solidy a starting corner spot this fall.
"Gaines came out of camp and won that position," Restivo said. "He's only played corner for a little while and he is steadily improving each week."
Through 8 games, Gaines has six starts and his five passes defended is second to Calvin Pryor for the team lead.
"It's his first year playing cornerback and he's doing a tremendous job for us," said defensive coordinator Vance Bedford.
Gaines big play skill has led to a pair of interceptions this season. His first career pick came at a crucial time at rival Kentucky. With the Wildcats threatening to pull within a touchdown of Louisville's lead, Gaines stepped in front of the receiver and intercepted Jason Whitlow's pass at the Cardinals 2-yard line.
Last weekend against South Florida, Gaines made another great play on the ball. Midway through the fourth quarter, Gaines properly read the USF play selection. Upon snagging his second career interception, he displayed his speed and elusiveness by returning the ball 70 yards for a touchdown.
"That was the third time [USF] had run that route," Bedford explained. "The previous time they ran it he knocked the ball out. Next time, he baited the guy and jumped right in front of it. When he caught it, I was like, 'its over with.' He got invisible real fast. He had an extra gear."
Gaines, who can often be seen talking it up with his teammates and opponents, believes in his ability to make big plays and wears his confidence on his sleeve.
"That's what corners should do," Restivo said. "If he has the confidence and can play the football, that's a great thing."