Doe Welcomes Competition for Playing Time

Three years ago the Gator linebacking corps was struggling to find itself after losing a ton of talent off the 2006 national champs. Now the Florida Gators are loaded at linebacker and only All-American candidate Brandon Spikes can be absolutely certain of his spot in the starting lineup.

There are two other seniors among Florida's linebackers. Ryan Stamper might be the first backup at every position in the unit while Dustin Doe intends to be out there a lot despite the efforts of guys like Brandon Hicks, John Jones and Lerentee McCray among others.

Doe has had a solid career on the Gator defense starting 16 games and registering 137 tackles. However last season was a difficult one for the veteran from Live Oak Suwanee. He started three of the first four games, was injured and then played off the bench the rest of the way. He did end the year on a high note with a great game against Georgia in Jacksonville. Doe was superb in pass defense, intercepting a pass and tipping another that was picked off by Ahmad Black. He also came through in the two biggest games of the year, registering five tackles in the SEC Championship Game and a half a sack in the BCS Title Game win over Oklahoma.

While most veterans would probably feel they've earned a starting nod at this stage, Doe has no problem fighting for a job. He says the on-field battles this spring have been good for him and his teammates.

"I think it's been going pretty good. I think we have a lot of competition out here and a lot of guys fighting for positions. In our program competition is the best coach because it's been bringing the best out of everybody. I think it's making us a lot better. Just about every practice is a game situation. In game a bad play can lose a game, but out here a bad play could lose your position. It's made this spring a lot more intense and competitive."

There's no question the biggest concern people have about this defense is complacency. As we have discussed throughout this spring the Gators return every key player off a defense that shut down the most prolific offense in major college football history on the way to winning the BCS Title Game. Doe says that might have been a concern, but not when every job is on the line day in and day out.

"The National Championship is done. It's in the history books now and we're focused on this team. We don't want to be the same team we were last year. We want to be better. We want use last year as a learning experience, a stepping stone to even better things."

As good as the defense was at the end of the 2008 season there is still plenty of room for improvement in this unit. Florida did allow 31 points in a loss to Ole Miss and the Gators went the entire season without posting a shutout. Doe says he and his defensive teammates are well aware of those stats and many others as they set goals for this fall.

"On our defense everybody has a book of statistics and we all look through it and look at things we can capitalize on. Even our turnover ratio (35/13) which a lot of people around the nation thought was really good we want to better that. Hopefully we can put up a couple of goose eggs and be the best defense in the country."

The Gators certainly have the potential to be as good if not better than any other defense this fall. The first key to that will be the off-season program and seeing if this team pushes itself as hard as it did a year ago. The second will be the ever-present key --- staying healthy. If they accomplish both things the Gators will get those goose eggs and maybe more.


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