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Brandon Spikes (Florida)
Height: 6'3" Weight: 256 pounds
40 Time: 4.76
On the other side of the SEC Championship, Brandon Spikes is a notch below McClain's physicality but his own on-the-field instincts are nothing below par. As the top member of a defense that only lost two games in consecutive years, Spikes will be a well sought after acquirement in April.
There are concerns surrounding his character after he was suspended during the 2009 season for allegedly attempting to gouge out the eyes of a Georgia running back. Aside from that isolated incident, as violent as it was, Spikes has a generally consistent personality that wins over most who interact with him.
Although Spikes' progression at Florida isn't impressive—in fact, it's downright disappointing—most of it can be contributed to a bothersome groin injury and the heightened savvy of opposing offensive coordinators.
On a defense full of playmakers, it's easy to see how ineffective Spikes could be when properly planned against. As a senior, he only amassed 52 tackles, three sacks, and two interceptions.
On the field, though, Spikes has some of the quickest instincts in his class, flying to the ball with great straight-line speed. He moves seamlessly through the trash at the line of scrimmage to get to the runner or the quarterback.
His true strength in the backfield is his pass coverage. Like most linebackers of his size, Spikes looks a little stiff when changing direction, but he has great recognition skills and reads the quarterback like a true pro. He closes in on the short routes quickly and uses his long arms to break up the pass.
As a run defender, it's all about size for Spikes. He uses a great punch to disengage the blocker, though at times it appears he would be more apt to use his hands, a skill he hasn't yet mastered.
He is impressively aggressive at the line, though at times his over aggression allows the cutback lanes to open up, something he will have to improve upon at the next level. As a tackler though, he is efficient and nasty. He wraps up well and uses his quick feet to grab smaller runners coming out of the backfield.
He struggles at times to bring down larger backs, but makes up for it by having a tendency to separate the ball from the carrier.
Spikes is a prototypical stand-up blitzer. He can explode off the line at the snap and can easily get to the quarterback. In Florida's defensive scheme, he wasn't regularly used as a primary blitzer, but could be very effective in that capacity at the professional level.
Spikes's intangibles are up and down. He has good upside but his character issues may serve as a distraction come draft day. He comes from a good football bloodline as cousin Takeo Spikes has found recurring success in the NFL.
Look for a team like Denver to bolster up the youth of their defense with Spikes. Josh McDaniel's fiery coaching style has the capabilities to deal with the potential problems that come with drafting Spikes.
Elvis Dumervil may depart through free agency and D.J. Williams isn't getting any younger. With his run-stopping abilities, Spikes may be the new defensive quarterback in Denver for years to come.