Trust Played a Role in Defensive Drop-off

It didn't take long for Brandon Hicks to realize why the defense experienced a drop off this season. Besides all the talent that the Gators lost from last year's team, trust also left. The inexperience at multiple positions found the upperclassmen trying to pick up the slack. They were afraid to make an aggressive play, thinking that if they missed it, there would be no one to clean up the mess.

"After being around Spikes, Stamper, Joe and Major, we really had a feel for each other, even if I was just going to try and run through on a read to hit a back," Brandon Hicks said. "I know that if I miss the tackle, he might score. Having Spikes beside me, I knew he would always be there when I needed him to be. It was a great camaraderie that we had as a defense as a whole (in the past)."

The lack of trust wasn't because the team didn't try to build it. Most of it just comes from playing together. The 2009 defense had the benefit of three years together with the some main group.

That trust was also built off the field in the past. Many of the defensive players lived together or spent a majority of their time together, leading to a better relationship on the field.

"We tried to build that in sped up time with all the younger guys coming in, but it didn't happen as fast as we wanted it to," Hicks said. "The defense can't really play great without trust. We totally didn't have enough of it."

The older players had time to mature and buy into the team philosophy. It hasn't been that way for the freshmen. This group of first-year players got negative labels immediately when they stepped on campus. Mike Pouncey called them out in late April, calling the entire class cocky and saying that the freshmen needed to "shut their mouths and come to play."

Transfer rumors spread throughout the season from players who were unhappy with playing time. It seemed like every time the issues with the freshmen couldn't get bigger, they did. However, the new players being forced into action was a main reason Hicks thinks the defense struggled to trust each other.

"Mostly because it's younger guys coming in," Hicks said. "They want to prove themselves and get on the field to play. They just want to be seen and get in. So much of the older guys mindset is that you don't want to be seen, you want to be heard. You want to win and make plays."

This season didn't go anywhere near how Hicks wanted his career to end. It did give him some perspective on how blessed he was early in his career. He lost two combined games during his sophomore and junior seasons.

His career included a national championship, an SEC championship and two BCS bowls. The five-loss season wasn't the way he wanted his senior season to end, but it makes Hicks' career seem that much sweeter.

"That was very special," Hicks said. "It's something that I still enjoy to think about. We were a team that had so much respect for every person and trust in each other. That really is something that you feel like a winning team needs and championship teams have mostly. Having those guys around me really felt like at home. You just sit there and know that no matter what I do, someone has my back."

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