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All right, draftniks. You know that Pewter Report is the undisputed king of Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft coverage. We've listed players, such as quarterback Josh Freeman (2009), wide receiver Dexter Jackson (2008), offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah (2008), quarterback Josh Johnson (2008), defensive end Gaines Adams (2007), linebacker Quincy Black (2007), wide receiver Maurice Stovall (2006), quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (2006), middle linebacker Barrett Ruud (2005), cornerback Torrie Cox (2003) – among others, at their respective positions in the Bucs' Best Bets sections of Pewter Report's annual Bucs Draft Preview.
As the 2010 NFL Draft approaches, Pewter Report's resident draft experts, Scott Reynolds and Charlie Campbell, have spent countless hours watching over 12 college games per week and scouting which prospects would look good wearing red and pewter next year. With over 500 college games to review dating back over the last four years and countless scouting contacts throughout the NFL, Reynolds and Campbell are armed with the inside scoop needed to put together these scouting reports on players who might fit Tampa Bay's schemes on offense and defense.
The casual football fan already has a good deal of knowledge on likely first-round draft prospects, such as Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, USC safety Taylor Mays, and Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung. These regular Pewter Insider features on PewterReport.com will scout out players that are candidates for the Buccaneers to select in next April's draft.
Will one of these players wind up being the next Ruud, Zuttah or Johnson? We'll all find out next April when Tampa Bay is on the clock.
FLORIDA LINEBACKER BRANDON SPIKES
VITAL STATS: The Gators standout middle linebacker checks in at 6-foot-3, 258-pounds. He is estimated to run the 40-yard dash in the 4.7 range.
In his first three seasons at Florida, Spikes totaled 239 tackles (142 solo) with 25 tackles for a loss, 3.5 quarterback sacks, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries, four interceptions returned for 93 yards and two touchdowns. In eight games as a senior Spikes has 45 tackles (21 solo), 4.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, one forced fumble, and one interception returned for a touchdown.
WHY HE COULD BE A RED AND PEWTER PLAYER
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the 29th-rated defense in the NFL and the 31st-rated run defense. The Bucs front seven has been getting exploited all season on the ground, and has not been able to get anything close to a consistent pass rush. Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud has not had as many big plays in 2009. Some think he is misfit for the Buccaneers' current defense. Ruud is scheduled to hit free agency after the season, and may not be back. Head coach Raheem Morris said the Bucs need to get bigger and more physical at linebacker and along defensive line.
Drafting Spikes would certainly be a big step towards making the Bucs a physically imposing defense. Spikes has the size of a defensive lineman with the instincts and quickness of a classic middle linebacker in the mold of Ray Lewis, Hardy Nickerson, or his cousin Takeo Spikes. Brandon Spikes does not have the elite speed to be a sideline-to-sideline defender. However, the massive Spikes is a thumper that has the strength to defeat blocks from offensive linemen and tackle the ball carrier. Spikes is an excellent tackler that puts offensive players down hard. His hitting ability can electrify his team, and intimidate the opposition. In pass defense Spikes is very versatile. He has good footwork dropping into coverage. Spikes is adept at reading a quarterbacks' eyes, and closing on the ball quickly. He has soft hands, and great ball skills. The Gators also rush Spikes from the defensive end position in certain packages. Spikes stands up over a tackle, and is very good at getting pressure on the quarterback. Spikes is a big-time playmaker that shows up in big games.
The Bucs are in dire need of a fire-starter leader in the mold of Warren Sapp or Nickerson. Spikes is that kind of player. He loves to practice, and pushes his teammates to get better daily. The Gators say that he is the heart-and-soul of their defense, and they have one of the best defenses in college football. Spikes loves to win. Despite getting a first-day grade from the NFL Advisory Committee, Spikes returned to Florida for his senior season when quarterback Tim Tebow announced his return. Spikes said he did not want to pass up another opportunity to win a championship.
In his family Spikes has a model of great success and failure. His cousin Takeo Spikes is a leader, and Pro Bowl linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers. His older brother, Breyon Middlebrooks, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole in North Carolina in 2001 when Brandon Spikes was 14.
If the Bucs re-signed their leading tackler in Ruud and drafted Spikes. Ruud could move to the Sam (strongside) linebacker position. That would greatly improve the Buccaneers run defense instantly, and give them a situational pass rusher in Spikes that is also good at dropping into coverage.
TOUGHEST TRANSITION IN TAMPA BAY
There is a chance that Spikes will not run well at the combine. He has good football speed, and is quick, but he may not have good track speed. The Bucs chose Ruud over Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu because Ruud ran a faster 40-time. However, Tatupu has had the better career. If the Bucs go back to a Tampa 2 system in 2010, Spikes may not be an ideal fit at middle linebacker. Some members of the Buccaneers front office could be turned off by Spikes' eye-gouging incident in the Georgia game this season. Plus, Spikes does not make the play calls for the Gators defense. In the NFL that is traditionally part of the responsibilities of a middle linebacker.
RECORDS AND SUPERLATIVES
Spikes was a consensus first-team All-American and first-team SEC performer in 2008. He also was finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, Lombardi Award, Lott Trophy, and Butkus Award. Spikes was voted a team captain for the 2009 and 2008 seasons.
HIS BIGGEST GAMES
10/31/09 vs. Georgia 10 tackles, one INT returned five yards for a TD
10/10/09 at LSU 11 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble
10/11/08 vs. LSU 5 tackles, two INTs returned 55 yards and one TD
9/27/08 vs. Mississippi 13 tackles, one sack
9/27/07 vs. Auburn 7 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, 0.5 sacks, 1 PBU
Spikes is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Tampa Bay is likely to be picking in the top-five, which is too high for Spikes. With two second-round picks, and high selections in the third and fourth round the Bucs have the ammunition to trade back into the first round to get Spikes.
Spikes' leadership can be seen in this video about Florida's 2009 National Championship Team.
Gators quarterback Tim Tebow talks about the leadership and emotions of Spikes one minute into this press conference.
Spikes was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week in this game against LSU in 2008. You can also see some of Spikes' limitations, like a lack of sideline-to-sideline speed.
Spikes set the tone for Florida's win against Georgia when he shed a block from a guard and planted Georgia's Knowshon Moreno.