- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Jalen Tabor decides to go with two quesadillas. Florida's slender, 6-foot, 191-pound cornerback is refueling after a morning session of practice under a blistering Gainesville sun.
For someone looking to keep the calories and energy up during the grueling weeks of preseason camp, the buffet-style feast does the trick.
He's also trying to keep his edge, which becomes obvious when he's asked about DBU -- Defensive Back University -- causing his bites to become more pronounced and his voice to deepen.
"We're the best in the country," Tabor said. "We're just deeper than them and better -- quality and quantity."
"Them" are LSU's sensational defensive backs who antagonized Florida's secondary after the school released a DBU video -- now deleted -- this spring.
Lol, just because yall got a little video, don't make you DBU. Just saying.
— JamalAdams® (@TheAdams_era) May 15, 2015
— Jmills (@Mills_Island) May 15, 2015
LSU posted its own video:
Vernon Hargreaves III got in on the action ...
#SECMD15 Day 1 quote of the day: Vernon Hargreaves. Says "we'll let the season play out and it won't be close" in UF/LSU battle for "DBU."
— Gabe Bock (@GabeBock) July 13, 2015
Then he didn't ...
— Ross Dellenger (@DellengerAdv) July 13, 2015
Running back Leonard Fournette, who left Florida's entire defense battered and bruised with 140 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries in last year's 30-27 win against the Gators, had his own fun:
A photo posted by Leonard Fournette (@_fournette7) on
"This is a culture. It's real," LSU safety Rickey Jefferson said about the DBU label. "Like it's not something that we joke around about. We take it seriously and that's why this year, some people, we've got to go at them just because they tried to take our title."
A nickname, nay, a way of life former LSU defensive back Corey Webster created, is on the line.
Recent history favors LSU with Webster, Jim Thorpe Award (top defensive back) winners Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne, and Chuck Bednarik (top defender) winners Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
"We have to uphold that tradition," Jefferson said. "It's something that doesn't really have to be said. It's something that's somewhat expected. We were given this and when we're out here playing, we're expected to do what those guys did or better."
Modern Florida stars include Joe Haden, Janoris Jenkins, Major Wright, Ahmad Black and Reggie Nelson, but you have to go alllll the way back to 1996 to find a Thorpe Award recipient -- Lawrence Wright.
Last season, LSU led the SEC in pass defense (164.2 yards per game), while Florida ranked seventh (213.6) and allowed 818 passing yards and eight touchdowns in the first two SEC games (Kentucky and Alabama). LSU allowed just three 200-plus yard games with a high of 268 twice (Mississippi State and Auburn).
Florida certainly got better (seven TDs allowed the rest of the season) and now has arguably the deepest secondary in the nation with what Tabor thinks is at least eight deep. It also has the All-American Hargreaves, arguably the nation's best cover man, who has defended 30 passes with six interceptions in two years.
The trio of Tabor, nickelback Brian Poole and safety Keanu Neal defended 30 passes and snatched eight interceptions last season. Youngsters Quincy Wilson and Duke Dawson (two combined INTs and five defended passes), helped Florida rank third in the SEC in pass-defense efficiency (107.4).
"We're the best," Neal said. "The film doesn't lie. We'll speak with our play this year. They can hoorah and say what they want, but the film won't lie."
LSU could play seven or eight guys in its secondary, headlined by Jamal Adams, Jefferson -- who is temporarily replacing star Jalen Mills (ankle) -- and cover master Tre'Davious White. Florida's secondary won the interception battle (15-9), but LSU led the SEC in defensive pass efficiency (101.6).
Each combined to produce five of the best eight SEC defensive backs in terms of fewest yards allowed per pass (minimum of 30 targets), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Mills -- 3.7 yards per target (first in SEC)
Tabor -- 4.3 (fourth)
Hargreaves and White -- 4.4 (tied for fifth)
"Both teams have great players," said White, who had two picks in 2014. "It's a good, friendly battle. It's just competitive nature and every guy thinks they're the best. We have the same swagger that they do."
Most of last year's secondary talent returns for both teams, so who will be the best?
Florida? (Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info)
5.4 yds after the catch per reception (third). LSU: 6.8 (11th).
Secondary forced a turnover on an SEC-high 18 percent of possessions. LSU: 11 percent of drives (ninth).
Hargreaves' 4.4 yards per pass was the lowest among all 105 Power 5 DBs who were targeted at least 50 times. He also allowed an SEC-low 4.6 yards per play.
Allowed less than 3 yards per attempt in three games. LSU: two.
SEC-high 52 passes defended down field. LSU: 34 (seventh).
SEC-low 5.5 yds per pass attempt. Florida: 6.0 (third)
Quarterbacks completion percentage: 51.7 (first). Florida: 53. 1 (third)
Quarterbacks completed 14 percent of passes thrown at least 25 yards down field (second). Allowed just six completions of at least 25 yards. Florida: 36 percent completion percentage (13th)/13 completions.
SEC-low 10 passing touchdowns. Florida: 15 (fourth).
Held SEC teams to 195.4 yards per game (third). Florida's 237.9 (10th).
Really, you could make the case for either, and it should be extra fun to watch them feast on SEC quarterbacks this season.
"We're not really focused on who's DBU or not," Adams said, "but we're going to work each and every day to get better and reach that title and get the respect of others."
"We're just going to keep our heads down and keep grinding ... we'll see them Oct. 17."
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