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March 29, 2012

Hines has a new number, new position


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Omarius Hines was just as happy to make the phone call as his father was to receive it.

After four years of not getting what he wanted out of Florida, Hines had gone to head coach Will Muschamp, offensive coordinator Brent Pease and running backs coach Brian White with two requests. He wanted to play running back and he wanted to wear No. 20, both things his father had done as a high school football player.

After meeting as a staff, the coaches decided to grant both of Hines' wishes and it was time to tell Dad.

"He was very excited," Hines said. "He just told me to take the coaching and go 100 percent, give it everything you have."

Hines is not shy to say that the last four years have not gone as he had planned. After coming to UF from Corsicana, Texas, as a wide receiver, Hines has 41 catches and two touchdowns in three seasons. His most productive year came as a sophomore, but after moving to tight end last season, he had just seven catches for 106 yards.

"It's really frustrating because you come to a place like this expecting to play a lot and when you don't play you get kind of down or whatever," Hines said. "But the coaches have been keeping my head up and letting me know, just be patient and that's what I've been doing."

He wanted more involvement with the team and Muschamp admitted that he had to do a better job of utilizing Hines' athleticism. The answer looks to be using Hines as a hybrid-type player, a style similar to the one Trey Burton has found a niche with. At 6-foot-2 and 223 pounds, Hines is the kind of big, physical guy Pease will be looking for to contribute to the power run game he would like to see.

In Saturday's scrimmage, Hines said he got "three or four" carries that included a touchdown. He said he feels he can be used as a powerful back for third-down and short-yardage situations. Those who have been having to play against him agree.

"He's big, really big," senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter said. "He's big, he's hard to tackle. … He's an athlete, just an athlete. He can move."

Though he said he feels comfortable there and is primarily adjusting to footwork, running back is not in any way familiar to Hines. He played running back "a couple times" in high school but was almost exclusively used as a wide receiver. When asked the last time he took a hand-off out of the backfield was before this spring, Hines laughed and referred back to a 36-yard run on a fake punt against Tennessee in 2010.

More traditional running backs like Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown have been teaching Hines the ropes while also trying to fend him off as competition. For Hines, earning the opportunity for more carries is an added inspiration every day in practice.

"It's a lot of motivation because the harder I go the more they want to do with me and use me," he said.

"I wasn't surprised (that he's been running well) because I"ve known him to be a hard worker," UF center Jonotthan Harrison said. "So it wasn't a shock to me that he was working hard at whatever position he's in."

Hines expanded to running back in search of more playing time and a desire for the kind of success that he has yet to achieve at Florida. As a redshirt senior, he's willing to do whatever it takes to reclaim the dreams he had as an incoming freshman, even if that means taking the every-down beating of a running back.

"It's going alright," he said. "I'm still standing."


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