Brandon Spikes- Florida
Scout: David Syvertsen
Height/Weight: 6’3/258 lbs
Ideal System: 4-3
Pro Potential: EJ Henderson – Minnesota Vikings
Coverage/Zone Defense Skills: Reads the quarterbacks eyes very well and can diagnose throwing lanes before the release. Doesn’t cover a lot of ground and he will gamble, but he has had the knack for coming up with the big play against the pass with six interceptions and four returned for touchdowns over the past two years.
Instincts/Recognition: Drops in to coverage quickly but has a hard time diagnosing running lanes and often guesses on the wrong gap. Seems a little behind in pursuit as his first few steps are often false.
Pass Rush: Outstanding blitzer that can be brought off the edge. Totaled six sacks over his career but his impact as a pass rusher was greater than that number would lead you to believe. If he initially gets picked up by a back on an interior blitz, his effort to reach the passer on second effort is not always there. Lack of actual pass rush moves.
Pursuit/Lateral Movement and Agility: Has the speed to be a force sideline to sideline, but the poor angles hurt him. He thinks he is faster than he really is and he is beat to the edge too often to be considered a lateral force. Does not change direction very well as he struggles to make quick movements in a phone booth.
Quickness/Explosion: When healthy and when he is sure of himself, he can fill a gap with explosion and completely blow up a play. Very inconsistent in this area as he seems slow footed at times because of indecision. May have something to do with the foot injuries he has had to deal with.
Strength/Ability to Shed Blocks: He is a very muscular 260 pounds and he is one of the more physical linebackers in the country. When healthy and when his mind is in the right spot, he can toss away blockers with ease. But he often plays too high, exposing too much to a blocker, making it easy to get locked on to. Also an easy linebacker to cut block as he does not keep his hands in front.
Tackling: A sure tackler that will bring down any back when he is in position. When approaching a ball carrier with his balance in check, he can deliver quite the blow. Can make the difficult tackle when he isn’t in prime position.
Versatility: Can play on the strong side where his ability to cover and take on blocks physically would suit him well or in the middle where his instincts and filling ability can make a difference right away. Blitzes well from all angles. Has the tools to be moved around in any NFL scheme.
Final Word: Spikes entered the 2008 season as one of the top middle linebackers in the country but his play since his 131 tackle (16 for loss) sophomore season has been on the steady decline. He has had a couple of foot injuries that have hampered his movement but Spikes is the kind of player that needs to be at full strength with talent around him in order for him to perform well. He is surrounded by arguably the most talented defense in the country and he does not exactly stand out as much as many think he would after that 2007 campaign. He does play with the mean streak that teams love to have at middle linebacker but the durability issues on top of his inconsistent motor are causes for concern. He has the ideal size and frame, but he will need more than that to succeed in the NFL.