Tennessee Grabs Raines

Stephaun Raines isn't the type of prospect that will help UT's recruiting rankings this year, but he's the type of player can sure help their team rankings over the next four seasons.

For a program that values speed above all athletic talents, this two-star prospect is a solid gold addition to UT's Class of 2006. Yet his gift of swift is just part of an impressive package that makes this sleeper a keeper.

"The thing Stephaun really possesses is great speed," said Dalton High School head coach Ronnie McClurg. "He can really run. He has run a 4.38 in the 40. He has also been electronically timed at 10.6 in the 100 meters, which is outstanding. The thing that goes along with his speed is his toughness. He's a very physically tough young man. He has a great passion for the game."

The 6-foot, 170-pound, Raines has a sprinter's frame but it's his love of the game that pushes him to excel in all aspects on football.

"We used him at a wing back," said McClurg. "We changed our offense this year to a wing-t and tried to utilize his ability more to the outside, but the more we got into the season we became a little more diverse and used more in our running attack. The thing I really like about him is that when he's not running the football he's blocking. He lines up at the wing and blocks defensive ends and linebackers. He did a great job of that. He became a tougher kid.

Stephaun Raines isn't adverse to spending an ample portion of his free time in the weight room and film room either, as he works diligently to improve his play. Despite his size he bench presses 280 pounds and has only played football four years.

"He grew up in Tampa Fla., and moved here four years ago having never played football," McClurg explained. "He's come a long way in learning the game of football and he's got a ways to go. But he's a student of the game and he's improved every year we've had him."

A three-year starter for the Catamounts, Raines had an outstanding senior season in which he compiled a collective 1,920 rushing and receiving yards, scoring nine TDs on the ground and eight through the air to help lead his team to a 10-3 record and No. 7 ranking in the state. In those 13 games, Raines gained 891 yards on 152 carries and added 598 yards on 38 catches. It's the type of production for a wing back that's virtually unheard of.

"He makes so many big plays because of his speed," McClurg stated. "We try to get the ball in his hands and he makes things happen. No one ever caught him from behind.

"I was telling Coach Fulmer yesterday I compare him to Peerless Price. He came to Tennessee and kept running by the varsity as a member of the scout squad. I think by the third week he may have started. He was under the radar also. Once people saw him run everybody jumped on him.

Naturally, that brings up the question: how was Raines so overlooked when it came to high regard by recruiting services?

"Stephaun is a young man that did not go to any Nike Camps or this type thing," McClurg responded. "It cost money to go to those things and he wasn't able to go. I've seen a lot of great players that went on to become great players that weren't even rated coming out of high school. So it's a matter of publicity. If there's a player out there these colleges will find them."

So right coach, and certainly Raines was no secret to college coaches in the south. In addition to Tennessee, he had scholarship offers from South Carolina, Arkansas, UAB, Georgia Tech and MTSU among others.

"Coaches were still calling him after he made his commitment," McClurg said. "That's understandable but he's solid to Tennessee.

A positive byproduct of his late start in football and low recognition nationally, is that Raines has remained both humble and hungry.

"He's a humble young man," McClurg said. "He has a wonderful mother and he's very appreciative. He's a fine young man. I think he's going to be very successful. He certainly will not hurt the Tennessee program from an athletic standpoint or character standpoint."

McClurg should know what he's talking about. He's been coaching at Dalton for 36 years and has contributed to the Catamounts' remarkable run of 46 straight winning seasons. Among the high school all-American players he has sent to Tennessee are defensive back Jimmy Weatherford, kicker Ricky Townsend and offensive lineman Bill Mayo. Two years ago Mayo's son Cam signed with he Vols from Dalton and now he'll be joined by Raines.

Raines is coming to Tennessee as an athlete who could help on either side of the ball as well as special teams.

"He has good hands and he makes the tough catch," the veteran coach said. "He lets the game come to him and he can do so many things in a game. He returned kicks and punts. He can make a key block to break a runner. He can catch the pass and he can run the ball. We started running the option and pitching to him last season."

Raines pull spot duty at corner on a team that platoons almost exclusively. However he has great closing speed and a 39-inch vertical that make him a strong candidate to see time in the secondary on the next level.

"They've told him he'll get his opportunity on offense first," McClurg said. "Coach (Larry) Slade loves him as a safety, but he wanted the opportunity to start off on offense and if it doesn't work there they'll move him over to defense."

Wherever he ends up Raines is going to UT with the intent to earn early playing time.

"Physically he's got a ways to go yet," McClurg said. "Tennessee will add weight where he needs weight and strength where he needs more strength. I know his attitude is that he's going in to compete this year. He's not going in to be redshirted. He wants playing time. He's certainly going to go in with the proper attitude that he's going to compete for playing time."

McClurg grew up watching Tennessee football and he's looking forward to seeing a couple of his charges play there over the next four seasons.

"I'm from Alcoa, Tenn." he said. "I enjoy Tennessee football and I've enjoyed Coach Fulmer and our relationship over the years. Cam Mayo is another one of my kids. I'm anxious to see them both run through the T."

With the ball in the hands of Raines, lightning can strike anytime.

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