August 6, 2011

Tree now rooted at LB

Just because he's now at Moe linebacker instead of safety, Alec Ogletree joked that he sees no need for some fancy nickname change with a fiercer sounding theme.

"Nah, I'll still be 'Tree,' the soft-spoken sophomore said after coming off the practice field, where he's preparing for his first year at his new position for Bulldogs this fall.

"As far as just coming in for the summer camp, I mean, I'm pretty much prepared as opposed to last year just as far as knowing the defense," Ogletree said. "This year, during the spring I tried to learn as much as I could and in the summer during our break I tried to go through my playbook, read up on few things and get ready for the challenges ahead."

By now, Ogletree's story is a familiar one to Georgia fans.

Signed in February of 2010 as one of the country's top safeties, although at the time some suggested that the rangy Ogletree could one day grow into a linebacker, a position he had yet to play.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham obviously felt the same way, deciding prior to spring to move Ogletree to inside linebacker from safety, where he started the final four games of 2010.

"Basically, every year what you do is, you evaluate the players you have and you look at your needs," Grantham said of Ogletree who made 35 tackles and was named to the SEC Coaches All-SEC Freshman Team. "We looked at all of our cut-ups (film) from the past year and he's a tall guy, he's got size, he can run, he can hit, he's physical and I felt moving him closer to the ball is going to help him make more plays and be productive for us."

At 6-foot-3 and 236 pounds, Ogletree admits when Grantham first approached him about the switch he wasn't sure if that was what he wanted to do.

After all, he was just getting comfortable in his role at strong safety and with three potential years of starting ahead, wasn't certain he wanted to risk any playing time by attempting something new.

"I'm not saying I was 100 percent gung-ho, because I was getting some respect at safety and had played the three (regular season) games there, so I was a little skeptical. But it's worked out for the best. After talking it over with Coach (Grantham) and my parents I decided to give it a try."

Grantham said the switch will allow the Bulldogs to be more flexible on defense than what they were a season ago.

"It was really a little bit of a work in progress. I wanted him to buy into it because I think it gives us some flexibility with our defense. It allows him to run and hit, to be productive also so it was a few days of just trying to let him buy into wanting to do it," Grantham said. "But he's excited about it. I showed him some things that we can do with him and I'm really excited because by moving him there it will allow us to put Jarvis (Jones) at outside backer, because you've still got to be able to manufacture a pass rush that can make plays as outside backers. What we've done is move a guy who can make plays closer to the ball and kind of get him around the action a little bit more."

Ogletree certainly made a good impression during April's G-Day game as he collected a game-high seven tackles, displaying the same "nose for the football" mentality he was able to show throughout high school and the first year of his collegiate career.

"When I first moved to linebacker, I was told to just 'run to the football,'" Ogletree said. "But now since the spring, they're wanting me to do a better job of figuring out where I need to be so I can plug the hole better."

Ogletree doesn't figure to be making any other moves anytime soon.

"I've got a great opportunity. You've got great linebackers in this position at Georgia I'm in now and I'm trying to be a good one myself," he said. "I want to make a big impact. I'm going to try and help the team however I can, play wherever they want me to play."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at dash@ugasports.com.