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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

UF coaches hoped Brandon Spikes, who played sparingly as a freshman in 2006, would be a different player this year.

They wanted Spikes to transition into another Brandon: Brandon Siler, the man Spikes replaced at middle linebacker in the starting lineup this season.

As UF's defense has improved, Spikes has looked more and more like the leader Siler was during last season's national title run.

"That's the quarterback of the defense," UF coach Urban Meyer said. "If you want to see a bad defense, a lot of times I'll show you a bad middle linebacker."

Spikes took responsibility when his defense gave up 413 yards - 196 rushing - and 42 points to Georgia on Oct. 27.

Seven days later, Spikes played a major part in cutting those opposing offensive statistics nearly in half in a bounce-back win against Vanderbilt.

Meyer asked Spikes to address the rest of the team in the locker room after Saturday's win.

"He took responsibility that it would never happen again, (letting) the defense down the way he did (against Georgia)," Meyer said.

Spikes registered a game-high 14 tackles, including a pass breakup that resulted in a Jermaine Cunningham interception.

INGRAM BANGED UP: Junior tight end Cornelius Ingram played in Saturday's game despite having a sprained ankle that had bothered him all week, Meyer said Monday.

Ingram, UF's fourth-leading receiver with 22 catches for 340 yards, failed to catch a pass for the first time this season.

"We thought he'd be a little more involved than he was," Meyer said.

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Percy Harvin and Andre Caldwell gobbled up receptions instead, combining for 18 catches and 213 yards.

With sophomore Riley Cooper out for the second-straight game with a broken finger, Jarred Fayson played a bigger role on offense, catching two passes for 19 yards and a touchdown.

"I believe our receiving corps is playing their finest football," Meyer said. "We've got to get Riley Cooper healthy, but everyone else is contributing."

CUNNINGHAM EARNS HONOR: Sophomore defensive end Jermaine Cunningham was named the Southeastern Conference Defensive Lineman of the Week, the league announced Monday.

Cunningham, a first-year starter, nabbed his first career interception and recorded five tackles versus Vanderbilt.

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