We’ve spent a lot of time talking about lack of depth in the Gator linebacking corps and probably not enough time talking about the two terrific linebackers that Florida’s defense revolves around. Brandon Siler gets more attention because of his considerable talent and his considerable personality. However, senior Earl Everett is every bit as important to the Gators’ chances in 2006.
If you ask most Gator fans who led Florida in tackles last year they would say Siler, and they would be wrong. It was Everett (72 tackles) who topped the defensive charts last season. That gives the native of tiny Webster, Florida a chance to do something that hasn’t been done in quite a while; lead the Gators in tackles two straight years.
Trivia: Who is the last linebacker to lead the team in tackles two straight seasons? (Answer at the bottom, no cheating!)
Still, with Everett and Siler the only sure things in the middle of the Florida defense, back we go to evaluating the other linebackers and their chances to help the Gators this fall. The other day I spoke with Everett to get his view of the other linebackers on the squad, what the freshmen have shown him and where he sees his own game needing to improve.
LV: Earl, so much has been said building up to this season about the lack of depth at linebacker. You’ve seen these guys out here for a couple of weeks, what do you see in that regard?
EE: There’s a lot of progress from the incoming freshmen. They’re coming in and trying to prove themselves and they’re doing a real good job. The more reps they get the better they’ll be. Hopefully they’ll get to where they can help us out a lot.
LV: Talk about the guy behind you, Dustin Doe looks like he’s really getting after it.
EE: Dustin is a guy, just like Spikes who listens. They want to learn and want to get better. You can tell when they go out there against the first team offense they get in there and make plays.
LV: Are you more confident about the depth situation than you were two weeks ago?
EE: Oh yeah, definitely I’m feeling very confident. Guys like Darryon Robinson and Ryan Stamper they are coming along better than they were last year. So with the new guys, we’re all learning from each other and the whole corps is getting better.
LV: What about you? How do you want to improve and finish up your Gator career?
EE: As a senior I just want to be better all around. I want to improve in every area. A lot of people say I can cover pretty good and this and that but I know I can get better at everything I do. Two things I really want to work on are my tackling and coverages.
LV: That’s interesting Kyle Jackson and I talked about tackling the other day. Do you feel the Gators were a poor tackling team last year?
EE: No we weren’t a great tackling team last year. That’s why we’re doing extra tackling work every day. There’s a lot of room to improve and get better.
While Everett may have tackling and coverages at the top of his list, I suspect Florida’s defensive coaches would have “big plays” at the top of theirs. Everett has been a solid performer for three years, but the big plays have been too few and too far between. Everett has been credited with 188 tackles over three seasons, but he has managed just 12.5 tackles for loss. Everett has not recovered a fumble in three years of extensive playing time and has intercepted just two passes… And both of the picks came in last year’s Kentucky game.
His three year total of 14.5 big plays (I define a big play as a tackle for loss or turnover) is nowhere near what he’s capable of producing. The Gators need Everett to match that number in the 2006 season.
*** The last Gator to lead the team in tackles two years in a row was Carlton Miles (’91-’92).