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The defenders: Florida’s Jack Youngblood was the best the Gators had to offer

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Steve Spurrier seemed to be bored by defense.

In his day, it was Fun ‘N Gun, first downs and touchdowns. But over the years, the Gators have played a little defense, too, as the legends of Jack Youngblood and Wilber Marshall should show.

Someday, maybe those guys will have statues outside of the stadium, too.

Until then, here at the SaintPetersBlog, we will debate the team’s top 10 defenders ever.

10. Vernon Hargreaves, DB (2012-2015): Hargreaves led a Gators’ defense that was a surprise winner of the SEC East. A cornerback, he was the 11th overall pick of the Bucs.

9. Keiwan Ratliff, DB (2000-2003): The SEC defensive player of the year in 2003. Had nine interceptions to lead the SEC as a senior. Second-round draft pick of Bengals.

8. Dante Fowler, LB (2012-2014): Fowler was a two-time all-SEC performer for the Gators. He was drafted third overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

7. Lito Sheppard, DB (1999-2001): Sheppard played ten years in the NFL, including two Pro Bowls. As a Gator, he was a member of the 2000 SEC champions.

6. Kevin Carter, DE (1990-1994): Carter’s teams won three SEC titles while he was at Florida. A No. 1 draft pick of the Rams, Carter made two Pro Bowls. He was the sixth overall pick.

5. Mike Peterson, LB (1996-1998): Peterson was a starting linebacker on the team’s 1996 national champions. He played 13 years in the NFL for the Colts, Jags and Falcons.

4. Scot Brantley, LB (1977-1979): A head injury cut Brantley’s career short, but not before he had established himself as a stellar player. He played for years for the Tampa Bay Bucs.

3. Javon Kearse, DE (1995-1998): No one had to ask why his nickname was “The Freak.” Kearse, a No. 1 draft pick of Tennessee, played 11 seasons in the NFL. He was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 1992.

2. Wilber Marshall, LB (1980-1983): Marshall’s memories are largely about the Chicago Bears, but he was at the heart of one of Florida’s toughest defenses while with the Gators. He was three times all-SEC, and ABC named him their Defensive Player of the Year.

1. Jack Youngblood, DE (1968-1970): One of the most unchallenged of Gator legends, a player who reached seven Pro Bowls and the Hall of Fame in the NFL. He led a 9-1-1 Gator team that won Ray Graves’ final game.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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