|No. 5 Florida's Spikes eyeing leadership role|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 18 August 2008 12:13|
Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes of No. 5 Florida just needs to make eye contact.
``He doesn't have to yell at you,'' said outside linebacker Brandon Hicks, a sophomore who has gotten his fair share of glares. ``He'll look at you and you already know what you did wrong.''
The gaze is relatively new for Spikes. It's part of the 6-foot-3, 245-pound junior's new persona as the leader of UF's defense. It's a role he didn't fulfill last season and one he vows not to take lightly in 2008.
s time. Guys respect that I can play on the field so now I just want to take part of being a leader on the defense.''
Spikes certainly played the way a leader is expected to in 2007. His 131 tackles was second in the Southeastern Conference and earned him first-team All-SEC honors. He also recovered three fumbles and broke up seven passes, but Spikes said he should have made more big plays.
He points to the Georgia game as an example. The Bulldogs had 196 yards rushing - including 188 and three touchdowns by Knowshon Moreno - in their 42-30 win. Georgia totaled 413 yards and converted 10 of 13 third downs.
Spikes, who had eight tackles in the game, blamed himself for the defense's poor performance and said the loss was the beginning of his maturation as a leader.
``We kind of let those guys run up and down the field,'' Spikes said. ``I felt like I didn't really play as hard as I could that game and I let guys down. I felt like I could have done a little bit more and made a play. I felt like I should have been a guy to make a play to win the game but I didn't.
``After that, I just wanted to step it up.''
Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong agrees with Spikes. The middle linebacker is supposed to be the heart of the defense, and Spikes was just too complacent because he didn't have to win his job, Strong said. Spikes inherited the starting job when Brandon Siler left for the NFL after his junior season.
``When guys don't really have to work for something, it's easy for them to say, 'I'm the starter and I don't have to work as hard so I don't really need to be a leader. I'm going to do what I have to do,''' Strong said. ``I think that's what he did last year. He did enough just to play his position and not worry about anyone else.''
Spikes is certainly worrying now. He is the defense's emotional barometer and the players are responding, junior outside linebacker Dustin Doe said.
``He brings that energy, that power,'' Doe said. ``We need that juice. Once he brings it, everybody comes. It gets everybody going like that.''
So does Spikes' look.
Mistakes are quickly corrected whenever Spikes fixes a defensive teammate in his stare. Doe described it as part disappointment, part encouragement.
``You'd think it'd be like a scolding look, but it's kind of a funny look,'' Doe said. ``He's not really looking at you with a scrunchy face. He's just kind of looks at you like, 'You know you messed up, right?'
``We have this saying: Never let your teammate down. If he looks at you, you let him down on that play and it's something you can't do on our defense.''