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Gators, Tigers, Horns among top defensive units

10/10/2006 - College Football

High-octane offenses dominated college football over the past couple of seasons, but defenses are dominating in 2006. With so many teams chasing conference and national championships on the strength of their defenses, it's about time the playmakers on that side of the ball get noticed. Here's my breakdown of the top 10 defenses so far this season, including a focus on the premier difference maker on each respective unit:

1. Florida Gators
Difference maker: Safety Reggie Nelson
The Gators returned an outstanding front-seven with DT Marcus Thomas, DEs Ray McDonald and Jarvis Moss and LBs Earl Everett and Brandon Siler. But Nelson's development into one of the biggest ball hawks in college football is somewhat surprising. After playing a versatile role in the past for the Gators, he has thrived as the full-time starting free safety. Nelson shows excellent instincts, range and ball skills in coverage. The junior is tied for eighth nationally with four interceptions, and returned one pick 70 yards for a score against Alabama. He also came up big with a blocked kick in Saturday's win over LSU.