Jan. 8, 2007
By Adam Caparell
Adam is CSTV.com's football editor and national football writer.
With the No. 10 defense in the nation, and ranked sixth in scoring defense and fifth in rushing defense, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't find Florida's unit one of the more formidable, not to mention talented and speed-rich, in the country.
But Siler doesn't see it that way. He thinks they're overlooked, underappreciated and ignored.
"Our defense as a whole isn't discussed enough. I don't think we get enough credit for what we do," Siler said. "Every week, instead of saying something about our defense, they find a way to promote our opposing team's offense."
Stopping the likes of Ted Ginn, Anthony Gonzalez, Antonio Pittman and an offensive line that averages 315 pounds is rough enough. But the Buckeyes, of course, also happen to be anchored by the Heisman Trophy winner, Troy Smith.
With their vast arsenal of offensive weapons to choose from, the Buckeyes can hurt in any team in any number of ways. And as they enter the game undefeated, firmly entrenched as the No. 1 team all season long, Siler knows there's never been a better time for him and his teammates to prove their worth.
"I think it's a great opportunity for us because I don't think this defense has ever gotten the respect that it deserves," Siler said. "I think we're probably the best defense in the country and no one pays attention to us."
Siler's selling himself and his teammates short in the name of motivation. To say
Against Tennessee, it was Erik Ainge and Robert Meachem that were expected to burn the Gators in
Against LSU, the question was whether
They answered by picking him off three times.
And in the SEC Championship game, how could the Gators ever stop Darren McFadden?
"We were the No. 1 rush defense in the SEC," Siler said. "We went in against
McFadden managed only 73 yards and the Razorbacks - the leading rushing team in the SEC - were held to only 132 yards on the ground.
Time and time again
"That's what they've said all year so we're used to that," Siler said. "Our defense is used to playing the underdog and kind of behind the spotlight."
That's entirely new territory for a guy like Siler. An aspiring actor, the junior - who's second on the team in tackles and tackles for loss - has put the world of drama and scripts on hold to concentrate on playbooks and the pigskin in college. The leader of his drama department in high school who starred in multiple performances at Evans High, Siler now takes to the biggest stage of his life, hoping for a performance of a lifetime that involves stopping the man no one else has been able to: Smith.
The unflappable quarterback has been tremendous in just about every big game he's played in through his career. Wins over Notre Dame,
"Anytime you want to be considered the best you have to play the best," Siler said. "He's the best at his position; he's the best in college football right now."
And with the likes of Siler, fellow linebacker Earl Everett, safety Reggie Nelson and cornerback Ryan Smith,
Siler liked the comparison.
"I think we're like them in a sense in that the other team supposedly has all these stars and all has all these great players whereas we play as a team," Siler said.
Now he just hopes his stars can align to outshine the Buckeyes, a team he and his teammates have been hard pressed to find any holes in.
"They probably don't have many weaknesses," Siler said. "You're not going to find too many."
Just a few months later, Siler can easily pinpoint the turning point of the season. It came after their lone loss of the season, to Auburn on Oct. 14. Despite sacking Brandon Cox five times, the Gators fell in Auburn giving up a then-season high 27 points. Afterward, the team came together and vowed to put their feet down. They had just lost to a team they knew they shouldn't have and a new rallying cry was born.
"Nobody should beat us and we've gotten it and taken it dead serious since then" Siler said.
Nobody has beaten the Gators since, as the defense helped carry the offense through some struggles all the way to
Now the ultimate task is at hand and only hours away. Aside from that ring, a little respect is what Siler and