Siler and Gators After Something More

Jan. 8, 2007

By Adam Caparell



Adam is's football editor and national football writer.
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Call the Florida defense Rodney Dangerfield, because if you ask linebacker Brandon Siler the Gators can't get any respect.


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."


As Florida gets ready to take on vaunted Ohio State in the BCS Championship Game tonight in Glendale, Ariz., Siler and the Gators are preparing for their final chance to prove just how good they really are. And going up against the stacked Buckeyes offense will provide them with their sternest test yet.


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 Florida's defense has been overlooked and ignored isn't true. Far from it, in fact. They've gotten their fair share of press and pub. Stats don't lie and many consider them to be among the nation's elite. But Siler just doesn't see it that way. He thinks they're getting the short end of it from the media.


Against Tennessee, it was Erik Ainge and Robert Meachem that were expected to burn the Gators in Knoxville.


Didn't happen.


Against LSU, the question was whether Florida could contain JaMarcus Russell.


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 Arkansas and all they could say is McFadden was going to run all over us."


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 Florida came up big in their biggest games despite the Gators' perception that no one thought they could do it.


"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, Texas and three over Michigan have cemented him as an all-time great in Columbus. The Gators know they'll be hard pressed to keep him under wraps, but Siler said they're relishing the opportunity.


"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, Florida has a top-notch defense that's helped them win more than a few close games. It's just one unit of a team that reminds some of Ohio State's 2001 national champion team that defeated a much more heralded and hyped Miami squad. The Hurricanes were big favorites heading into the Fiesta Bowl matchup in Arizona only to fall in double overtime to the upset minded Buckeyes.


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 Glendale.


Now the ultimate task is at hand and only hours away. Aside from that ring, a little respect is what Siler and Florida are after tonight. Dangerfield never got it. That's one comparison Siler and the Gators would like to avoid.



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