The Georgia Bulldog defense under Head Coach Mark Richt and Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham has been one of the most talented defenses in the country for the past several years and they have been a consistent source of talent for the NFL. This year’s version of the Bulldogs may have as many as nine or more players with futures in the NFL. One of the most talented in this group is inside linebacker Alec Ogletree who has contributed in every area of defense. In 10 games this season, Ogletree has recorded an impressive 63 solo tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 5 passes broken up, 3 sacks, 5 hurries, a forced fumble, an interception and a touchdown off of a blocked punt. Ogletree brings a unique blend of speed and size that allowed Georgia to basically use an oversized safety at the linebacker position. While Ogletree has a few things he needs to improve to really succeed in the NFL, his athleticism, potential, and ability to make plays warrant a second round grade with a small chance of being picked at the end of the first.
Ogletree is listed at 6’3” 232lbs. He has incredible speed for the linebacker position and remarkable athleticism. Ogletree was a safety in high school and has maintained defensive back speed for the linebacker position. For the NFL, team will likely want him to gain a little bit of weight and get more in the 240lb range, but that should not be too difficult. He is strong for his size but not tremendously strong for the position. His quickness and fluidity are impressive.
As a tackler, Ogletree does a good job for the most part. His speed enables him to avoid diving too much and he typically gets to the ball carrier, wraps up, and takes him to the ground. If he is able to meet the ball carrier coming forward, he can deliver with some power because of his speed. Because he is only around 230lbs at this point, some of the bigger backs he has played against have been able to force him to drag them to the ground rather than making an impact tackle. Occasionally, Ogletree will try to hit the home run and when he does, he just throws his shoulder at the opponent. This most commonly occurs when a teammate has slowed a ball carrier and has them in his grasp and he goes for the finish. The reality is as long as Ogletree has any speed going, he will hit with power and as he gains strength while maintaining speed, his hitting power will only improve.
As a run defender, Ogletree is a tremendous run and chase linebacker. He has incredible range that goes from sideline to sideline and beyond. Ogletree is substantially less effective when he has to try to fill. If there is a lane, he will come in hard and make a good tackle. However, Ogletree hates to take on blocks, especially from offensive linemen and either avoids the linemen entirely opting to try to go around them or bounce off of them as quickly as possible. If a team expects him to play inside linebacker, they are going to need to protect him from allowing linemen get to him for him to be effective unless he improves in this area. While Ogletree’s athleticism is impressive, he seems to read and react a half beat slow which negates some of his quickness and makes him look less impressive than he could be. Some of this could be attributed to his lack of experience at the linebacker position, but teams will have to decide if this is an area he can improve or if this is a problem area. When Ogletree trusts what he sees and reacts that way, he is impressive and he can beat the play to the hole.
In coverage is where Ogletree is at his best. His instincts from playing safety and his athleticism stand out. Ogletree has the ability to match up with tight ends, running backs, or slot receivers and in many cases, he has been the superior athlete and faster allowing him to run their routes for him. His anticipation for the passing game is extremely impressive putting him in position to undercut passes and making him a big threat for pass break ups, interceptions, and even touchdowns. He needs to improve his ball skills and his hands to make him a more dangerous player and pay off these situations. Too many times Ogletree does everything right, making an impressive play that few other linebackers could make but simply could not catch the ball. Ogletree offers a unique skill set if a team wants him to play inside linebacker in terms of their ability to draw up coverage around his abilities and giving them a ton of speed against the pass. As a zone defender, Ogletree has a good first step and can get into his drops with ease as if he is a safety playing at the second level which makes him dangerous to the opposition. One other area Ogletree could stand to improve is his willingness to chuck and reroute receivers coming into his area. For the most part, he is so quick he simply does not need to, but it is not just about making his job easier, but working to protect the defensive backs behind him and disrupt timing.
Ogletree can also contribute as a pass rusher on the blitz. His first step and speed are always something a quarterback will need to be aware of, because while he plays linebacker, he comes at the quarterback like a defensive back. If he is not accounted for, the quarterback is going to do down. Ogletree’s unique athleticism allows him to give both offensive linemen and running backs trouble getting in front of him as a blocker, but Ogletree needs to be more willing to be physical and either stun a running back or simply drive him into the quarterback instead of always trying to go around them.
One other issue that could be an issue in the NFL for Ogletree is how he tends to free lance. Ogletree will occasionally see what he thinks is an opportunity to make a play and drop his assignment, which is a gamble. When this works, fans think guys that do this are great, instinctive players and in some cases they are. Those same fans do not see the plays where the gamble was wrong, he has taken himself out of his gap or zone and created a huge running lane or opened a hole in the coverage that allows the opponent to make a big play or even score. In these cases, the player making the gamble better have an excellent batting average or they risk doing far more harm than good for their defense, their teammates, and the defensive coordinator.
The best fit for Ogletree is as a weak side linebacker in the 4-3. His speed, his ability in coverage, and the added ability to contribute on the blitz make him ideal for the position. He does also have the ability to play the middle linebacker position as well, provided he is protected by the defensive tackles in front of him. His speed, range, and ability in coverage could make him attractive in that position for teams that like to run a Cover-2 scheme and want their middle linebacker to have the ability to drop into deep coverage easily. While he played the TED position in Georgia’s 3-4 look, it could be a difficult fit for him in the NFL unless the scheme works to protect him from having to take on blocks.
Because of his incredible speed and transition from the safety position, Alec Ogletree could end up being compared to former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Derrick Brooks if he can reach his potential. Brooks was a safety that was converted to middle linebacker and was the middle linebacker that allowed Monte Kiffin’s Tampa-2 scheme to be so successful for the better part of a decade. If he is unable to improve his instincts and free lances ineffectively, he could end up being a three down version of Rey Maualuga. Maualuga, currently of the Cincinnati Bengals, has always been a player who was looking to make the big play and looked like a hero doing it for the Trojans at USC because the defense around him was so talented, it could cover up for Maualuga when he gambled and missed. In the NFL, Maualuga has continued this road but gambling and losing has been problematic for the Bengals and could ultimately force them to go in a different direction at the position. In terms of his athleticism, Ogletree may remind Georgia fans of former Bulldog safety that was turned into a linebacker in the NFL, Thomas Davis.
Ogletree's talent is undeniable and his skill set allows him to do some extraordinary things in a defense willing to take advantage, but if he is not able to improve in areas such as his ability to read and react quickly as well as be more physical when taking on blocks, it could dramatically impact his ceiling. And while the influx of underclassmen such as Ogletree has dramatically improved the quality of linebackers in this class, it makes his path more difficult. If teams are looking at him as a weak side linebacker, he is competing with Khaseem Green while at middle linebacker he is competing with Manti Te'o and Kevin Minter plus Arthur Brown who could also play both positions. In a weaker class, the tape shows a prospect with the speed and potential to be a first rounder, but in this class, he is more likely a solid second round pick.
South Carolina 2012
Mississippi State & Kentucky 2011
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