Texas Tech linebacker Will Smith had some information this week that was too good not to share with his longtime friend, New Mexico linebacker Rashad Rainey.
So four days before they face each other in a game, Smith sent Rainey a text message.
According to Rainey, it went something like this: “You’re not going to believe this. Our offensive coordinator came to me and said, ‘Rashad Rainey’s really good. We could have used him.’”
Texas Tech didn’t sign every member of Riverside (Calif.) City College’s undefeated team last winter, though it might have seemed that way. The Red Raiders landed Smith, running back SaDale Foster, defensive lineman Lee Adams and cornerback Bruce Jones, though Adams recently left the team.
Rainey, another member of that 11-0 Riverside team, said he’s known Jones since his freshman year of high school, Smith since fifth grade and Foster since kindergarten.
Rainey, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound linebacker, is UNM’s third-leading tackler this season and Foster is Tech’s third-leading rusher, so the two are likely to knock heads when their teams meet Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium.
“There might be a lot of trash talking when I tackle SaDale,” Rainey said good-naturedly. “There’ll be a lot of excitement on the field.”
Rainey admits he wouldn’t have minded joining his old teammates in Lubbock, but the Red Raiders needed mid-term transfers who could join the team for spring practice. Instead, he’s part of new coach Bob Davie’s building plan at New Mexico.
“I believe it was the chemistry with the coaching staff,” Rainey said. “The coaching staff really sounded like they wanted better for this program — not only for the program, but for the community and the fans. They wanted to show everybody the Lobos are going to be back there where they were years ago when they were going to bowl games and winning championships. That really got across to me and my parents that Bob Davie knew what he was talking about.”
UNM slammed Southern 66-21 in Davie’s debut before losing 45-0 last week at Texas.
Rainey, from his strong-side linebacker post, had seven tackles, a sack, a quarterback pressure and a pass breakup against the Longhorns.
“I think starting to try to build a new program is never going to be easy,” he said. “There’s always a lot of hard work that’s going to be required. I feel like we are slowly getting there. We may not be moving fast, but we are moving and we’re taking steps to get where we need to be. By the end of the season, I feel like we will be the most improved team.”
The 2011 Riverside City College team is looking stronger all the time, especially the linebacker corps. Aside from Smith starting for Tech and Rainey starting for New Mexico, ex-Riverside linebacker Eddie Lackey starts for Baylor — he made eight tackles and an interception in the Bears’ opener — and Zaire Anderson is on the depth chart at Nebraska.
Rainey said they’re making Riverside coaches proud.
“To this day, they’re like, ‘That was the best linebacker corps we ever had,’” Rainey said. “Four linebackers that can run under a 4.5 and that’s not afraid to come downhill and hit and can actually cover better than most outside linebackers.”
Rainey said, on the field, he and Smith were “like twins; that’s how we see it” last season. On Saturday, though, he’ll be starting for one team and Smith, Jones and Foster will be playing key roles for another.
“I definitely think being on another team going against them, it’ll be a fun game,” Rainey said. “It’ll be a lot different, but it’s going to be a game to catch.”
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