Loaded at linebacker


Linebackers Brandon Spikes (51) and Ryan Stamper (41) give the Gators plenty of experience.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, August 8, 2009 at 11:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 8, 2009 at 11:44 p.m.

This is the fourth in a series breaking down the UF football team by position. Next up is a look at the offensive line on Aug. 16.

Facts

Ranking SEC linebackers

1. Florida
2. Alabama
3. Arkansas
4. LSU
5. Georgia
6. South Carolina
7. Mississippi State
8. Ole Miss
9. Auburn
10. Tennessee
11. Kentucky
12. Vanderbilt

The upside

All-America middle linebacker Brandon Spikes decision to return for his senior season was huge, not just for the defense but for the entire team because hes right up there with Tim Tebow in terms of leadership. Spikes is one of the best defensive players in the nation, and he will be around to help mentor talented young middle linebackers Jon Bostic, a true freshman, and Brendan Beal, a redshirt freshman. Based on his effort in the first two practices, Spikes has prepared himself to have a big season. The Gators also have speed, experience and playmaking ability on the outside. Brandon Hicks emerged as a future star last season and could have a major breakout season. Senior Ryan Stamper is one of the most versatile players on defense, capable of playing all three positions. Hes not always flashy, but hes very reliable and one of the most valuable players on the team. A.J. Jones has also played a lot of football and is healthy, and the Gators have some talented young guys on the outside in Lerentee McCray and true freshman Jelani Jenkins.

The downside

Dustin Doe is a senior and hes supposed to be a leader. But he let his teammates down this summer with his numerous traffic violations that have led to his indefinite suspension. Hes not in preseason camp, which means hell likely miss the first few games of the season. Its a real downer for a team that appears to have strong senior leadership everywhere else across the board. Also on the downside, junior Lorenzo Edwards was rated one of the top outside linebacker prospects in the nation coming out of high school, but his development has come along slowly, relegating him mostly to special teams play the past two seasons.

Young guy to watch

Bostic enrolled early and had an excellent spring, showing hes capable of filling the void in the middle if something happens to Spikes. Hes been a standout in the weight room and in conditioning, and hes picked up the defense quickly with the help of Spikes and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong. Another to watch is Beal, who missed last season after undergoing knee surgery. Hes a very physical player who runs well and plays with an attitude. He came on strong at the end of the spring and is playing with confidence.

DEPTH CHART
Outside linebacker
41-Ryan Stamper
32-Dustin Doe
34-Lerentee McCray

Middle linebacker
51-Brandon Spikes
52-Jon Bostic
54-Brendan Beal

Outside linebacker
40-Brandon Hicks
16-A.J. Jones
26-Lorenzo Edwards
43-Jelani Jenkins

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