Our final man in the Road To Pasadena series is the one player UF cannot afford to lose.
When it came time to make decisions about an NFL future, Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes all had various factors to consider. All could have left and fans would have understood. However, we knew it was unlikely Tebow would leave and likely Harvin would leave. Spikes' decision to stay had as great of an impact on Florida as Tebow, but was easily the biggest surprise. Fans sometimes look at junior players leaving as committing a selfish act. Had Harvin and Spikes both left, it would be understandable. Only the biggest jackass would believe those decisions to be selfish. Yet, Spikes made the selfish decision. He is staying for another chance to win and an opportunity to earn a college degree. His decision to stay is familiar to Gator fans as the family financial concerns were supposed to send Corey Brewer to the NBA after his sophomore season. Like Brewer, Spikes went to his family, specifically his brother, and they told him to stay in Gainesville.
We will see the rewards of Spikes' decision. When he was thrust into a starring role as a sophomore, he was unsteady both in leadership and actions. But he has since taken over, and become a monster. Of Florida's great defense, the only guy who could have ended the Georgia game on the second play was Brandon Spikes. When you see a play like that, from a player like Spikes, it is a bomb; total destruction that never allows the enemy to recover.
In his final year, we can expect to see the same leadership from Spikes. The challenge for any player, and the difference between the good and great, is how they adjust with the opposition planning for them. Spikes' play was not a surprise, he had the talent, but the force and energy was. Now that teams know what to expect, how does Spikes fight back? With the motivation of a perfect season and the desire to bring his game to a new level, we should see Spikes become one of the Gators' greatest players of all time.
Coming tomorrow, our 2009 Preview.