Spikes sets the tone for D

With virtually everyone back from a national championship defense, expectations for Florida on that side of the ball are immense this year. No one has to tell Brandon Spikes that, but the captain made clear after the Gators scrimmaged Saturday morning that no one's demands of the team are going to be higher than his.

"We have a standard here, and that's to fly around and play great defense." said the senior. "Get to the ball and go until the whistle goes - four to six seconds of relentless effort."

Brandon Spikes felt the defense lived up to its billing during the scrimmage, although he added that's only for where they are in camp to this point and not actually game ready.

One player Spikes noted is closer to reaching the high standard than he has been in the past is defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Spikes has challenged the ultra talented junior to improve his performance at practice, and he's been impressed by what he's seeing.

"He's growing up, maturing. With him you've just got to stay positive all the time and keep pushing."

Spikes also had praise for a number of young players, mentioning Brendan Beal, Jelani Jenkins and Gary Brown as guys who made plays during the scrimmage. He calls freshman linebacker Jenkins "a fast guy. Just a freakish athlete. The sky's the limit for him."

Spikes feels the one thing that could cause Florida to fall short of its expectations is complacency. Otherwise, it's his belief this year's defense is superior to last year's due to improved emphasis on refining their skills.

"We've got a chance to be great, we've just got to keep working," said Spikes. "We were usually playing off of raw ability and freakish talent. We've got a great coaching staff, and they've just been pounding us with technique."

Spikes says a particular goal for 2009 is increasing the number of three and outs they force - bend but don't break is not an acceptable approach for a defense this gifted. If he's right about the progress the unit has made, that should take care of itself.

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