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Video: Florida stakes claim to "DB U" with highlight reel, sparking Twitter spat with LSU

Who knew an imaginary title could mean so much?

Florida published the above video, proclaiming itself "DB U," to little fanfare on Monday.

And, honestly, it is awesome, one of the best videos Florida has put out or commissioned: The highlights, of picks and sacks and other things slowed down, are great, and the combination of a track Lex Luger probably forgot to give to Waka Flocka Flame and voiceover from Mick Hubert and other announcers makes this sound cool without even watching it.

Florida's got claims to being "DB U" now and previously, too. Eight different defensive backs grabbed interceptions for the Gators last year, and all but Jabari Gorman return in 2015. 12 Gators defensive backs have been drafted since 2002, a total that doesn't include former Florida corners Janoris Jenkins, Loucheiz Purifoy, or Marcus Roberson, all of whom have spent time on NFL rosters. And Florida's been among the nation's top 15 teams in interceptions in five of the last seven seasons.

But taking any claim to "___ U" will always draw eyeballs — and the trajectory this video took en route to doing so is really interesting.

It went up on May 11, according to YouTube, from a brand new YouTube channel called "Florida Gators Football." Florida has had another all-sports YouTube account for years — it used to be "FLGatorsAthletics," and still has that in the URL, but is now a verified account that displays as "Florida Gators." This video is the first one "Florida Gators Football" has ever uploaded. (A nice high bar for quality, to be sure.)

One problem with a brand new YouTube account, though, is that no one knows it exists. And no one knew the video existed, as a result, until Florida's official recruiting account, @_Gators_, tweeted it on Tuesday.

Since then, the video's been passed around a bit, though only two other official Florida accounts, the @CoachJamesRowe account of quality control coach James Rowe and official GatorVision account @GatorVisionTV, have done so. And that original @_Gators_ tweet was the most popular tweet with the YouTube video link in it until Friday, and had just 66 RTs as of noon on Saturday.

On Friday, Florida's @GatorZoneNews finally got around to hyping "DB U" with a tweet with the YouTube video as a native Twitter video, now the most popular one "Florida = DB U" tweet on Twitter (and which I somehow missed, in the first version of this piece, prompting a good-natured correction), and a Vine clipped from the YouTube video on Friday, in a tweet which has just over 100 RTs as of post time.

Those are both "big" tweets, to be sure, and the former is the biggest one with "DB U" in it on Twitter in the past week, from what I can tell. But neither was the tweet that touched off a spat.

No, that tweet would be this one.

Thanks in large part to a retweet from Vernon Hargreaves — who has over 30,000 Twitter followers — that video, an inferior version of Florida's original and official release, has garnered over 750 retweets since Friday, and may be over 800 by the time you read this.

It was probably that Hargreaves retweet that got LSU players to sit up and take notice of Florida's new "DB U" claim — as refracted by a fan.

LSU cornerback Jalen Mills was the first to spot it and respond:

But it was LSU safety Jamal Adams — a player who was projected by many recruiting analysts to go to Florida, once upon a time — who really got the back-and-forth started in earnest.

It sort of spiraled from there.

And affiliated accounts got in on the action, too.

I couldn't resist my own shot at Adams.

To his credit, @ClutchLikeMj dropped the mic with a funny faux LSU "DB U" video — though "My Heart Will Go On" to connote softness is so very tired.

I'm not quite sure I buy that this was "all in good fun," given that it led to making light of injury, but, admittedly, it was a spirited back-and-forth to follow on Friday.

But Adams is right: A single video (or a series of them) does not make a school "DB U." Nothing does, except self-proclamation, or acclamation. "Linebacker U" is Penn State, because Penn State has embraced the title; the "Quarterback U" tag has been affixed to schools as diverse as BYU, Maryland, Miami, Purdue, Stanford, and Washington. Clemson and Tennessee have been squabbling over "Wide Receiver U" this spring.

The distinctions are meaningless, except to the fans and/or recruits who wants to give them meaning. And that's why I find these squabbles, and the popularity of "claiming" a title like this, so interesting.

@ClutchLikeMj — real name: Ryan Bryant — has built a cottage industry of pandering to fans who want such things: Anyone familiar with his body of work — like, say, Florida, which has gone after and successfully shut down one of his YouTube accounts for copyright infringement — knows his modus operandi. He has been cobbling together videos from official Florida footage and adding explicit rap for several years, and has run with a hashtag Florida uses (#ItsGreatUF) to blur the lines between whether he's officially affiliated with the program for at least a few.

I don't personally follow Bryant on Twitter, and we've clashed in the past over his m.o. and other things, but I can't deny the popularity of his work. (I leave it to you to decide whether running a premium recruiting forum on the basis of that popularity is wise.) It's certainly clear evidence that the market for an endless stream of easily digestible hype videos that has existed since YouTube emerged is still booming, and with the advent of even more limited video formats (Vine, Instagram, native video embedding on Twitter and Facebook) and the revival of the animated GIF, such quick-bite snapshots have only gotten more popular1.

Airy, pointless debates over titles like "DB U" fall into a similar category: They are contrived arguments over imaginary stakes, largely conducted by partisans interested only in subjective judgments. To call Florida "DB U" after a season in which a secondary meltdown helped the Gators give up their most yardage in a game in program history is laughable ... but LSU got burned by Mississippi State and Auburn.

The No. 1 pass defense in the country last year in terms of yardage allowed belonged to San Jose State, and the Spartans would never put in a "DB U" claim. Neither would Clemson, which had the nation's best pass efficiency defense — largely because of a savage pass rush, not its secondary.

The fun thing about these arguments, and all contrived ones — so, uh, most arguments about sports — is moving the goalposts. "Prove" whatever you want with whatever facts you like! No one's grading you on accuracy!

If you've read Alligator Army for more than two days, you've probably grasped that I'm not all that fond of that mode of discussion. If I'm going to stake claims, I like doing so with objective data, or overwhelming proof — and, given the choice, I'd really rather provide analysis and my own conclusions, then have a conversation about them, rather than have an argument.

But it took you a hell of a lot longer to read this piece than to watch the video up top. And I bet this won't get many retweets, either.

Is Florida "DB U"? I don't know. Is LSU? I don't know. Do you know? No. We can all have fun with the argument, though — especially if we accept that it is pointless.


  1. That's a good thing, in a sense, for Florida: The quality of the official hype videos that Florida has put out for its various teams has risen dramatically in the last couple of years, with things like the "Gators Always" site/video standing as testament to the caliber of work Florida can do or commission. And the quality of work done by pros has always far outstripped work from fans like Bryant — save for explicit lyrics, a dubious improvement — so the tie should go to the Gators themselves going forward.