Top-notch linebacker wants UF


Published: Sunday, January 8, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 8, 2006 at 3:56 a.m.
The University of Florida picked up some more national pub and another big-time prospect Saturday when one of the nation's top linebackers made his pledge to Urban Meyer and the Gators.
During a break in the first half of the nationally televised Army All-American game in San Antonio, Texas, linebacker Brandon Spikes pulled on a Florida hat, did the Gator chomp and announced he will be signing with UF on Feb. 1.
Spikes, a four-year starter at Crest High School in Shelby, N.C., is rated the No. 37 overall prospect in the nation by Rivals.com and is the 27th prospect to commit to the Gators. UF's expected 2006 recruiting class is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation by Rivals and Scout.com.
"Brandon has all the tools, all the intangibles," Crest coach Roy Kirby said. "I think he has a chance to win the Butkus Award (which goes to the nation's top collegiate linebacker) before he's done."
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Spikes played middle linebacker in high school and projects to play the same position at Florida. In his senior season, he intercepted seven passes, forced five fumbles and recorded three sacks.
"He gives Florida a real head-hunter, like a Brandon Siler, to plug the middle of that defense," Rivals.com analyst JC Shurburtt said Saturday. "(UF co-defensive coordinator) Charlie Strong has had success using big guys that can run (at linebacker), and I think Spikes could be the latest to have a stellar career in that scheme."
Spikes picked Florida over Alabama and Virginia Tech.
In the Army All-American game, which was televised by NBC, Spikes was teammates with several other Gator pledges, including quarterback Tim Tebow, wide receiver Percy Harvin and offensive lineman Carl Johnson.
In other news, a player who had committed to UF early in the fall has de-committed and will sign with another school. Because of some academic issues, Springdale, Arkansas, tight end Ben Cleveland will not be able to make an official visit to UF or sign with the Gators on Feb. 1. He is expected to sign with Arkansas, where his former high school coach is the new offensive coordinator.
Cleveland's teammate, wide receiver Damian Williams, remains a commitment to UF.

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