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Gators bring back Rainey for Georgia game -- but will Georgia bring back King?

Photo by Mike Phillips

Photo by Mike Phillips

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's Chris Rainey and Georgia's Caleb King made headlines for all the wrong reasons earlier this season.

Arrested, then suspended.

They will be back in the spotlight Saturday, this time probably playing staring roles for the Gators and Bulldogs in what essentially will be an elimination game in the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division.

Rainey, suspended the last five games after he was arrested for allegedly sending a threatening text message to a former girlfriend, was fully reinstated following practice Thursday. Coach Urban Meyer said Rainey "had a good week," doing everything asked of him "and beyond."

King is coming off a two-game suspension for failing to take care of a speeding ticket.

Their returns come at a much-needed time for Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC) and Georgia (4-4, 3-3).

The Gators have been lethargic on offense the last three weeks, struggling to run, committing turnovers and failing to score in the red zone. Coach Urban Meyer points to injuries as the main culprit, with running backs Jeff Demps, Emmanuel Moody and Mike Gillislee banged up.

Rainey will get snaps in the backfield and at receiver.

"He's one of those guys that can take it to the house on any play," center Mike Pouncey said. "Like I've been saying the whole year, he's our best player."

Although Rainey did little in his two games this season -- he has six receptions and a touchdown -- he was a significant contributor the last two seasons. He ran for 1,227 yards and nine touchdowns the last two years and caught 13 passes for 198 yards and a score.

"He's a special guy," tight end Trey Burton said. "The things he can do makes the defense's head spin."

King has been special at times for Georgia, too. He ran for 594 yards and seven touchdowns last season, providing the offense a 1-2 punch with Washaun Ealey.

King has 228 yards rushing and a touchdown this season. He led the team in rushing in consecutive games before his suspension.

The Bulldogs did just fine without him, though. Ealey ran for 123 yards and a touchdown against Vanderbilt, then added 157 yards and a school-record five touchdowns on the ground last week against Kentucky.

But Ealey sprained a ligament in his right knee late in the game, opening the door for King to get extra work against the Gators.

"I don't even know who's going to start right now," coach Mark Richt said. "If Washaun was healthy the entire week, he might have got the nod."

Richt was confident Ealey's injury would by better by Saturday.

"It's not necessarily anything structurally wrong," Richt said. "But it's bothering him right now. In a few days that will subside, then you add a little adrenaline to it and he'll be fine."

Although Rainey and King will be back in the mix, both drew negative attention to their programs during the season.

King was Georgia's 11th player arrested this year. Receiver Tavarres King and safety Alec Ogletree were suspended a game following arrests.

Richt dismissed quarterback Zach Mettenberger, linebacker Montez Robinson and punter Trent Dittmer before the season, the booted linebacker Demetre Baker in September.

"Even those men that have left our program, I still think they all deserve another opportunity to finish their college career and pursue anything they want to pursue," Richt said. "I believe we're educators of young men and there's a lot of things we have to educate them on, and when they go astray, we need to straighten it out.

"Hopefully they'll learn from it and become a better man from it."

Meyer has similar expectations for Rainey, a junior who was charged with aggravated stalking charge after he allegedly sent a text that read, in part, "Time to die ..."

Meyer dismissed him from the team the next day, saying Rainey violated the program's core value regarding violence against women.

Rainey agreed to a plea deal last month on a misdemeanor charge. If he stays out of trouble for six months, the charge will be dismissed.

Still, his arrest was the 30th in Meyer's six seasons at Florida.

"Obviously, the initial sting is a lot of negativity brought on the program and the disappointment," Meyer said. "Then it's an opportunity for a young man to clear his name and get himself right and get him going like we have a bunch of guys around here and a bunch of guys all over the place.

"I just want to keep a tight rein on Chris Rainey. These things have never been an issue before and certainly never will be again."