Brandon Spikes is Looking Ahead

It's fair to say that almost every Florida fan expected Percy Harvin to turn pro and for Tim Tebow to return for his senior season. But the return of middle linebacker Brandon Spikes was the biggest boost the Gators got in the off-season. The leader of the Gator defense on and off the field is gearing up for a final season in The Swamp.

Spikes was projected by most to be a second or third round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, but he could move up the charts with improving his lateral speed and discipline. His ability to make plays is already well established. Spikes led the Gators with 93 tackles, eight for losses with a pair of quarterback sacks. He also intercepted four passes, returning two for touchdowns. He leads a Florida defense that improved throughout last season, capping the year by holding the most prolific offense in major college history to just 14 points in the BCS Title Game.

Spikes said there were several reasons he chose to return to school.

"I sat down with my family and I felt like coming back to school would benefit me more (than turning pro). As a player I can get better at a lot of things as far as technique and leadership."

Spikes who has really been a leader since day one on campus said he's not planning to do anything different in that regard.

"No, not really. Once you're a leader guys just kind of come to you and you attract guys. As far as the young guys, (I'm) just trying to teach them the ropes and learn what it takes to win the ball game."

Last year the Gator defense held opponents to just under 13 points a game, and five teams didn't reach double figures. With everyone back, Spikes was asked about goals for the defense this year.

"We know expectations are high because we've got everybody back on defense. People are expecting us to play well, but I think we can't get complacent. We know we're good, but we just got to keep working."

Spikes admits practice gets a little boring when you've gone through it as much as he has, but he says he tries to use this time to be a mentor on the field. He says once fall comes around, things will be much more intense for him.

"When we're playing against another team I have to really study and get more game film. My thing (right now) is getting the younger guys to play, guys like (Jon) Bostic and all those freshmen. You never know what can happen. I could go down the first game of the season and he has to be ready."

I've written multiple times how impressed with Bostic I have been so far this spring. It's nice to know Spikes shares that opinion.

"He's going to be a great player. He's just got to keep working. He's very instinctive. He fast. He's strong. The sky's the limit for that kid."

For all their success last year the Gator defense did not post a shutout last season. They also did not win every game. Brandon Spikes acknowledged that those are areas the Gators are thinking about in hopes of defending their title, but it all starts with a return to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.

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