GAINESVILLE -- The Florida Gators might have one of their best defensive secondaries in team history, but according to cornerback Joe Haden, the best defender on the field Saturday when UF hosts Tennessee will be dressed in orange and white.
Haden called Tennessee strong safety Eric Berry "the best defensive player in the nation" on Wednesday. Both Haden and Berry were on the preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given nationally to the nation's best defensive back. Berry led the nation during the 2008 regular season with seven interceptions.
"I think he's the best defensive player in the nation," Haden said. "Matter fact, me and Major [Wright] talked to him last night about how good he was doing and that's just one of me and Major's close friends, so that's real cool how we keep in touch with him."
Wright, the Gators' free safety, first met Berry in 2007 when both players participated in the Army High School All-American Game. Haden met Berry in Miami this offseason while visiting South Florida with Wright, who is from Fort Lauderdale.
Berry, a junior, was a finalist for the 2008 Jim Thorpe Award and he's the favorite to win the award this season. Tennessee's sports information department is marketing Berry for the Heisman Trophy and Berry is featured on a Tennessee Volunteers billboard in Fort Lauderdale.
Asked if Berry was a better player than UF linebacker Brandon Spikes, Haden said. "I love Spikes to death but I love Eric's game. We watch film when we're about to play other SEC teams and I just love watching him."