A Closer Look: Florida's defense

Linebacker Brandon Spikes, who is widely considered the best player on Florida's defense, returns to action this week after missing the opener. He leads a deep and talented Florida defense. Lets take a closer look at them.

Defensive Ends:
The Gators brought back one of their two starters from a year ago in Jermaine Cunningham. The 6-3, 250-pounder had a solid season a year ago when he finished with 64 tackles, 12 for loss, and 6.5 sacks. He picked right up where he left off last season in the opener when he had 1.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Carlos Dunlap was a five star recruit coming out of high school and at 6-6 and 290 pounds, he provides a big, physical presence on the other side. Dunlap played against Hawaii and didn't record any tackles. The backups include Duke Lemmens, who had six tackles and no sacks a year ago and Jeremy Trattou, who finished last season with 20 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Trattou had two tackles in the opener. While the Gators don't have a Derrick Harvey at end like they did last year just yet, this group is still very solid with lots of upside.

Defensive Tackles:
The two starters going into the game are Lawrence Marsh (6-5, 305) and Terron Sanders (6-2, 300). Marsh finished last season with just 5 tackles and 0.5 sacks but lived in Hawaii's backfield last weekend when he had two tackles for loss and two sacks. Sanders had just four tackles a year ago and had a TFL last week against Hawaii. While they're both big bodies, they are still inexperienced. The backups against Hawaii last week were former Dade County standout Javier Estopinan, who didn't get offered by the Canes coming out of high school. He was the most productive of all the current tackles last year when he had 19 tackles and one sack. True freshman Omar Hunter, a five star recruit, is also in the mix and got some playing time against Hawaii.

The guy in the middle, Brandon Spikes (6-3, 245) is considered one of the best in all of college football. He finished last season with 131 tackles, 16 for loss, and 1.5 sacks. He did not play in the season opener but is expected to play on Saturday night. He's the type of linebacker who can change games around and his play should have a big impact on how well the Gators do defensively this week. Dustin Doe (6-0, 230) finished last season with 85 tackles, including five for loss. He had two tackles in the season opener. The third starter on the strongside is A.J. Jones (6-1, 225), who had 36 tackles and one sack a year ago. He had a couple tackles in the opener. The main backups are Ryan Stamper (21 tackles last year, 1.5 in the opener), Brandon Hicks (13 tackles last year, 4 in the opener, and a kid who picked Florida over Miami in a heated recruiting battle two years ago), and Lorenzo Edwards (a converted safety who had three tackles last season and in the opener last week).

The starters are Wondy Pierre-Louis (6-1, 185, 30 tackles and two picks last year) and Joe Haden (5-11, 185, 63 tackles and one pick last year). Jacques Rickerson (5-10, 185) had an interception in the opener and is also in the mix a lot. Also keep an eye on true freshman Janoris Jenkins, a player from Pahokee that chose the Gators over the Canes last year.

Everyone knows about free safety Major Wright, who's considered one of the best in the SEC. He had 67 tackles last season and had an interception in the season opener. Ahmad Black (5-10, 190) plays strong safety and after getting just seven tackles last season, he had four in the opener to go along with two picks. Justin Williams (6-1, 205) had a couple tackles in the opener and true freshman Will Hill (3.5 tackles in the opener) was a five star recruit and is in the mix at safety as well.

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