Coach Strong on UF's new linebackers

The Florida Gators had a goal of signing 3-4 linebackers for the 2006 recruiting class and they got what they wanted both in quantity and quality. The Gators lost only Todd McCullough to graduation and there were three red-shirts from the class of 2005 to go with four quality returnees so a large class wasn't necessary. With 10 linebackers on the roster, all of whom are quality players, co-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong has talent and depth to work with.

The Gators signed Brandon Spikes of Durham (NC) Southern, Dustin Doe of Live Oak Suwannee, and A.J. Jones of Tampa Middleton, a trio of linebackers that rated as the seventh best group in the country. Florida was second only to Texas among schools signing less than four linebackers. Strong said the Gators got what they were looking for in this group.

"You have guys with size and speed," Strong said. "We got what we wanted recruiting wise."

Doe was one of the earliest to commit to the Florida Gators. The 6-0 208-pound Doe is a menace on the field, a guy that fights through traffic to get to the ball and has the speed to run opponents down with his backside pursuit. Doe opened a lot of eyes with his outstanding play for the Florida team in the CaliFlorida Bowl. According to Strong, he reminds him of four year Gators starter Earl Everett.

"Athletically he is a lot like Earl Everett coming in," Strong said. "He has the tools for pass coverage and fights through traffic and make plays at the line of scrimmage when necessary."

Jones is also a big time linebacker known for his punishing tackles. The 6-2, 190-pound Jones is blazing fast and his physical ability could see him on the field early in his career at safety but his long term home is at linebacker. Jones is like Doe in that he always seems to show up where the ball is. This big hitter teamed with Doe at the CaliFlorida Bowl and the two were considered the best pair of linebackers at that star-studded game.

"A.J. is another one in the mold of Earl Everett," Strong said. "He brings a nasty punch when he gets to the ball carrier and has big time speed for the linebacker position."

Brandon Spikes made his way up the scouting charts in two all-star appearances in December and January. In San Antonio he was regarded by some as the best linebacker at the US Army All-American Bowl. He truly loves the game and plays it that way. Spikes is 6-3, 235 and he loves to hit. His sledgehammer tackle of Chris Wells at the goal line at an Army game practice was said by most experts to be the hit of the week.

"Spikes is a bigger version of Brandon Siler," Strong said. "He knows the game, has great instincts, and flies to the ball when the play starts. He has optimum size for the college big linebacker positions."

By fulfilling its needs in this recruiting class, the Gators will finally have a quality three-deep on the roster when they take the field for practice in August. The Gators have enough depth so that that an injury at any position won't be a season-threatening disaster. Brandon Spikes, A.J. Jones, and Dustin Doe could all see the field early. There is no question that these three players have the speed and athleticism to start for the Gators early in their Florida careers.

Fightin Gators Top Stories