Monday, December 8, 2014

Top 5 Linebackers in Gator Football History

As I continue my Top 5 series on Gator football, I now move to the linebacker position. For years, Gator linebackers have helped anchor elite Florida defenses and nobody in my opinion did it better than the five players I have listed below! Without further adieu, here are my Top 5 linebackers to ever play at the University of Florida!

#5 Jon Bostic (2010-2012)

Jon Bostic was a member of that elite defense Florida had during its 11-2 season in 2012. In just three seasons at Florida under coaches Urban Meyer and Will Muschamp, Bostic accumulated 219 total tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 5 interceptions (1 for a touchdown), 11 passes defended, and two forced fumbles.

The Gator teams he played on won two bowl games (the 2011 Outback Bowl and 2012 Gator Bowl) and in the 2013 Sugar Bowl his six tackles were the second most among Gator players in a losing effort. Bostic's defining moment came in the Sugar bowl when he unloaded a devastating hit on Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. It was ultimately flagged as a dirty play, but in my opinion it was completely clean.

Bostic's lone collegiate accolade was a second-team All-SEC honor in 2012. After a disappointing 33-23 loss to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl, Bostic decided to forgo his senior year and enter the 2013 NFL Draft. He would be drafted 50th overall in the second round by the Chicago Bears and was quickly able to earn a starting spot with the team. As of Week 10, he has 109 tackles, two sacks, one interceptions, and four passes defended.

#4 Alonzo Johnson (1981-1985)

A part of two straight 9-1-1 seasons, Alonzo Johnson always found a way to assert his presence on the field. Using all his years of eligibility, Johnson compiled 335 tackles, 55 tackles for loss, 27 sacks, and one interception.

His 27 career sacks are the most by any Gator linebacker and stood until Alex Brown broke the record in 1998. Johnson also had the record for most sacks in a season with 12 until Brown broke that record as well. Despite Johnson's solid stat line and the overall talent of those early-80's Gator teams, it for some reason could not translate into bowl wins. Johnson won just one bowl game in his Florida career, the 1983 Gator Bowl.

Despite the bowl struggles, Johnson still left Florida as a very decorated player. Some of his accolades include:
  • First-team All-SEC in 1984 and 1985
  • First-team All-American in 1984 and 1985
  • Second-team Florida Gators All-Century-Team
  • Florida's All-Time Team
  • UF Hall of Fame inductee in 2002
After his senior year, Johnson entered the 1986 NFL Draft and was picked 48th overall in the second round by the Philadelphia Eagles. He played just one year for Philly before retiring. He finished his NFL career with one sack and three interceptions.

#3 David Little (1977-1980)

David Little was a member of that 0-10-1 Florida squad during his junior year. Still, a career stuck on mediocre Gator teams did not stop Little from balling out on the field. He was a tackling machine and is the the all-time leader in tackles at Florida with 475. He was also a bit of a ballhawk as he had seven career interceptions, which is also the most on this list.

In addition to his tackling record, some of Littles' other accomplishments include:
  • Consensus All-American in 1980
  • First-team all-SEC in 1980
  • UF Hall of Fame inductee in 1991
After winning the 1980 Tangerine Bowl his senior year, Little entered the 1981 NFL Draft and was selected 183rd overall in the seventh round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 11 years as a Steeler, he had nine sacks, 10 interceptions, and 11 fumble recoveries.

Unfortunately, Little is no longer with us. On March 17, 2005, Little was working out at his Miami home when a cardiac issue caused him to drop 250 pounds on his neck, which ultimately suffocated him. He was 46 years old. Rest in peace, David. We will never forget what you did for us here at the University of Florida.

#2 Brandon Spikes (2006-2009)

Brandon Spikes can best be described as a winner as he was a part of two Florida National Championships and a Sugar Bowl victory. Staying for all four years of his college career, Spikes was able to accumulate a monster stat line of 307 tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, six interceptions (4 for touchdowns), 20 passes defended, and two forced fumbles. Having four pick sixes out of six interceptions is just absurd to me!

Not having much of a big role in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, Spikes would make a difference in the 2009 BCS National Championship Game and the 2010 Sugar Bowl as he had six tackles in both games.

Besides being a Gator during the second golden era of Florida football, some other accolades Spikes can boast about include:
  • SEC Champion in 2006 and 2008
  • First-team All-SEC in 2007, 2008, and 2009
  • Consensus all-American in 2008 and 2009
After crushing Cincinatti in the 2010 Sugar Bowl, Spikes entered the 2010 NFL Draft. He would be drafted 62nd overall in the second round by the New England Patriots. In his three years as a Patriot, he appeared in one Super Bowl before being traded to the Buffalo Bills in 2014. As of Week 17, 2013, he has 323 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, 14 passes defended, and six forced fumbles.

#1 Wilber Marshall (1980-1983)

Coming in at #1 on my list is Wilber Marshall. Enrolling at Florida just a year after the 0-10-1 season of 1979, Marshall helped steer the football team back in the right direction. In his four-year collegiate career, he had 343 tackles, 58 tackles for loss, and 23 sacks. I could not find any information regarding how many interceptions Marshall had, but I bet he had a good amount.

Marshall's Gator teams won two bowl games. The first came his freshman year in the 1980 Tangerine Bowl as the Gators finally broke a streak of four consecutive bowl losses. His senior year, he helped the Gators reach a 9-2-1 record on route to a victory in the 1983 Gator Bowl and a #6 finish in the AP and Coaches' polls.

As the best player on my list, Marshall of course is going to have some accolades and awards to show for it. They include:
  • First-team All-SEC in 1981, 1982, and 1983
  • Consensus All-American in 1982 and 1983
  • Inducted into Florida Football Ring of Honor in 2007
  • UF Hall of Fame inductee in 2007
  • College Football Hall of Fame inductee in 2009 

After graduating, Marshall would enter the 1984 NFL Draft and was selected 11th overall in the first round by the Chicago Bears. He would go on to have a stellar 11-year NFL career for five different NFL franchises that included two Super Bowl titles, three Pro Bowls, an NFC Defensive Player of the Year Award, and various other honors and recognitions. 

Marshall finished his NFL career with 1,043 tackles, 45 sacks, 23 interceptions, and three touchdowns. He truly was one of those rare players who dominated at both the college and professional level and, in my opinion, Marshall should be adding NFL Hall of Famer to his resume real soon.

Honorable Mentions: Ralph Ortega (1972-1974), Sammy Green (1972-1975), Scot Brantley (1976-1979), Jelani Jenkins (2009-2012)

I hope you enjoyed this Top 5 article! Next week I have exams to study for so I can't promise that a new article will be out. However, I can promise that before Christmas I should have my next Top 5 article out ranking the best cornerbacks to attend Florida. Stay tuned!

*All stats accredited to, College Football @,  &

*All pictures accredited to,,,

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