Despite the gloomy post mortems, gnashing of teeth and scattered cries of "meh" surrounding Georgia's 2010 football recruiting class, it bears noting that there appear to be some legitimate impact players in this class. One of the things that gets obscured in the excitement of Signing Day is a cold reality: not only will a lot of the guys who sign not make it big, the coaches who recruit them know it. Well, they don't sign kids who they know will never contribute in a meaningful way. But they know that the odds are against every member of a 20 member class making All-SEC. Take for example former Auburn/current Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville, who last year declared:
We always thought if we could get 15 players that could contribute out of the 20 to 25 we’d sign, that’d be a good recruiting class. They didn’t have to be great players, just good SEC players. Then you could win a lot of football games. Some years, you’d get 20 or 22 and that’s going to be a group that’s going to turn into something. But you’re always going to make some mistakes."
All of which brings us to Newnan safety and Georgia signee Alec Ogletree. No player pledged to Georgia for the class of 2010 comes to Athens with greater fanfare than "Tree". Ogletree was rated by Rivals as the #3 player in the state of Georgia, the #3 safety prospect in the country, and one of the top 50 players regardless of position in the nation. He chose Georgia over a who's who of college football, including Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Oklahoma and Miami.
I am not arguing that Alec Ogletree will end his career in the Classic City as an All-American safety. Frankly, for reasons discussed below, I'm not certain he'll see the field at safety period. But Alec Ogletree is one of a select group within the class of 2010 who I am absolutely confident will see the field in some capacity as a true freshman. And that's enough for me for the moment.
By now many of you have probably seen this highlight video*(warning, crunktastic musical accompaniment). If not allow me to introduce Alec Ogletree:
As you can tell, young Alec is perfectly capable of introducing himself quite effectively. He arrives at the ball, as former UGA Defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder likes to say "in a hurry and with bad intentions." During the first 2 minutes of that highlight video I counted 3 separate occasions on which I thought Alec Ogletree had actually injured some poor kid. His biggest strength right now is that he is physically head and shoulders above the competition. At 6'3 and 210 pounds, he's already big enough to play safety in the SEC. And he uses that size to good effect.
Watching Tree fly around the field in this video you have to believe that the coaches will at least get him on the field for special teams duty. He's the type of human projectile for whom kickoff coverage was invented. You'll notice beginning at the 2:24 mark of the video that Ogletree is also something of a punt block specialist, coming free from a variety of angles.** Simply put, he has what NFL scouts call a good "size/speed ratio." In laymen's terms, he's just too big and too quick not to be put to immediate use on the field.
I also like the fact that he actually tackles. He wraps his arms, drives his feet, and takes ball carriers all the way to the ground. When you're as big and fast as Ogletree you can easily just throw a shoulder into most high school backs and send them flying. But it's a credit to both Alec and his coaches at Newnan that he doesn't take that opportunity to be lazy. He also seems to have good instincts for the ball, especially in run support. When you see a high school safety read a running play, fly up to the line and stuff the ball carrier in the hole the way Alec Ogletree does repeatedly in this video, you've got something to work with.
It's plausible that Ogletree could start out at safety and end up at linebacker. I say this because even at 210 pounds he doesn't seem to have fully filled out yet (just look at the still picture of him at the very beginning of the video). 240 pounds is not entirely out of the question for him if he continues to thicken up, and I just don't think it's realistic for him to play safety in the SEC if he gets that big. He's also not the best cover safety coming out of high school. He doesn't seem to have much of a backpedal, his footwork gets a little sloppy sometimes and he looks, again, as the scouts like to say, a little stiff. Additionally, his killer instinct to attack the ball is not always helpful. On the end-around pass at the 4:38 mark of the above video, for example, he would have been burned like toast in college. Only a poor looping throw by the receiver allowed him to recover and make the play.
All in all, I am ecstatic about Alec Ogletree's impending arrival in the Classic City. In any given year there are only so many guys with his raw athletic ability and intensity. Most of them do not come to college as fundamentally sound football players. Ogletree has that combination of attributes, and it should allow him to become something special. The question in the long run will be at what position he strives to do those special things. Coach Lakatos said after Signing Day that Tree will be looked at initially at safety, and there's been no talk of moving him (H/T, Mark Weiszer and the Banner Herald). However, I envision him as either a quick, aggressive 230 pound inside linebacker or, potentially, a larger outside linebacker with the versatility to either rush the passer or cover the tight end in our new 3-4 system.
Until later . . .
*Because I know that you want to know, the background music is "Washing Powder" by Atlanta rapper OJ da Juice Man. If you think you've heard it before, that's probably because it's my new cellphone ringtone, having replaced "Come Sail Away" by Styx.
** Side note to you high school punt teamers out there. I know your coaches have told you to block the inside threat first. But when a guy like Alec Ogletree is lined up on the outside and twitching like he's about to explode, you should probably communicate that to someone before the snap. Like the poor personal protector back there who's about to be eating his meals through a straw for the remainder of the semester. Seriously, how does a guy like that go totally unaccounted for so often?