A Tale of Middle Linebackers

GLENDALE, ARIZONA- Two of college football’s best middle linebackers will take
center stage in the BCS National Championship Game when top ranked Ohio
State meets second ranked Florida.

Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis (6-3, 244) won the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s best defensive player in additiona to earning first team All-American honors in his first year as a starter for the Buckeyes.

He lettered last season as a true freshman playing behind strongside linebacker Bobby Carpenter. When Carpenter suffered a broken ankle on the first play of the Michigan game, Laurinaitis stepped and helped the Buckeyes secure a 25-21 victory making his only tackle on the game’s final play. He started at strongside linebacker in last year’s Fiesta Bowl game, just a short drive from the site of Monday’s national title game.

This season, Laurinaitis amassed 100 tackles, including 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks from the middle linebacker position. He had 13 tackles against Texas and nine in the season finale’ against Michigan.

His father, Joe was an enormously popular wrestling hero in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. “The Animal” was part of The Legion of Doom. WWE CEO Vince McMahon has already extended an offer to James.

James Laurinaitis might get another offer next week.

Florida senior strongside linebacker Brian Crum has long wrestled hogs- and we’re not talking last month’s game against Arkansas. Hog wrestling has improved Crum’s ability to bring down a ballcarrier. In fact, Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder wrestled hogs with Crum when he was a member of the Florida football program.

“Hey, this is real is real wresting,” Crum said laughing. “I’d invite them (Laurinaitis and his Dad) over to wrestle You can’t really compare those. I’m mean one is real and the other is for real. There is no comparison of the two. None at all.”

“I don’t know much about him other than he’s a good football player,” Crum added. “But, it would be neat if I were to see him on special teams or something to invite him for some real wrestling.”

Third team All-American Brandon Siler (6-2 235) could have just as easily been the first team selection himself. While his numbers (73 tackles, nine tackles for loss, and three sacks) may not reflect as well as those put up by Laurinaitis, Siler brings so much to the entire Florida program with his superb leadership skills and play.

Brandon Siler is truly underrated.

Siler captured the hearts of the Florida coaching staff and fans from the very moment he stepped onto the Gainesville campus.

“He’s a very smart kid,” former Florida recruiting coordinator and running backs coach Mike Locksley said after Siler had signed his letter of intent to lay for Florida. “He’s a guy who will come in here and be a leader. He’s the type of guy that Coach (Ron) Zook loves, high energy. He’s one of those guys who is going to stand out.”

Those comments perfectly describe Brandon Siler.

Siler is a loyalist. Loyal to friends, family, teammates, and school. It was very hard for him to see former Florida coach Ron Zook pushed out the door, but he quickly became a pupil of Urban Meyer.

“Before he came, I was mad about the Zook firing,” Siler said. “I really was upset. I never looked at him on the news or anything. When we had that first meeting, I was gjust like growling and a lot of guys were growling at the fact that a new guy was coming in. As soon as he came in and talked to us and we walked out, I said, “You know what, we might have chance to win a national championship. I told him that and said that at the pep rally and he (Meyer) teases me about it. You said that we were going to get one, so let’s go get one.”

He appreciates the sensational efforts Meyer and his staff take in making Florida a true family atmosphere, where everybody benefits from their time in the program. It’s all about living right.

Siler has been asked repeatedly about the potential of this being his final game in the Orange and Blue of his beloved Gators.

“I don’t know if it would change the thought process,” he said. “It would definitely change how long before you would sit down and have a decision, because if you win you’d go out and celebrate beforehand. That’s ya’lls job. (to ask the question). I wouldn’t discredit ya’ll for doing your job. It goes through your mind a lot more than it does ours. We’re here to play a game and win a national championship and that’s the bigest prize in college football. You’d be crazy to think about anything else.”

If you know Siler- you know that he is only thinking about the game. His coach sure does.

“I think that he loves the game,” Meyer said as the Gators opened drills in August. “He’s a great student on and off the field, but there are some people that truly love football and that’s his life. Football is his life.”