As Georgia fans we have been really spoiled the last couple of years with an embarrassment of riches at the linebacker position. A strong argument could be made that Jarvis Jones is the best linebacker in the country. Alec Ogletree is coming off a 14 tackle performance in his first game back in action. When Ogletree went down with an injury last season Mike Gilliard filled in admirably, Christian Robinson has been steady as a rock for two seasons now, and Chase Vasser continues to get better and better. Amarlo Herrera is a hard hitter who always seems to be around the ball.
But the thing is, with the exception of Vasser and Herrera, everyone of those guys is likely gone after this season. And that presents a real problem. While Ramik Wilson has looked good in limited action
The thing about each of those guys is that they have demonstrated a knowledge of what their individual roles are on the team. When you think about it, that's kind of the key in a lot of areas of life. Brookwood's Shaun McGee is coming to Athens, and I am fairly sure he's not going to be Jarvis Jones.
Sure, every linebacker recruit on our board probably wants to think he is the next JJ. And I've seen more than one message board commenter say that they think McGee will end up at outside linebacker for the Bulldogs. I just don't see it, as I'll explain after we look at a little video. First, game highlights from McGee's junior season.
You'll notice in this video that McGee often plays nose tackle in a 3 man front for Coach Crews' Broncos. That makes it a little difficult to evaluate him as a linebacker, but some things do stand out. For one, he's not afraid to hit people. Whether playing linebacker, nose or fullback he's hitting people throughout this video. McGee also plays with his head up and his eyes in the backfield. A lot of high school defenders get so zoned in on beating the guy in front of them that they forget the ultimate objective, to tackle the guy with the football. That's not a problem with Shaun.
Second, by today's standards, he has excellent tackling form. More often than not he wraps up and runs through ball carriers. On the downside, McGee doesn't appear to have great speed for his size (6'3, 230 pounds). That impression is bolstered by this video which McGee posted to YouTube of himself running through some drills. For comparison, take a look at high school Jarvis Jones playing middle linebacker for Carver-Columbus, especially on the latter half of that video. There's a distinct difference there.
That's fine with me because, again, I don't see McGee rushing the passer from Jones' outside 'backer spot. I see him playing in the 240-245 pound range and being a run stuffing inside linebacker in the Akeem Dent mold. And that's very good news. Because, as we saw during this weekend's Tennessee game, when the big guys at the nose start getting tired, Todd Grantham's defense can become a little vulnerable up the middle. We can use definite help there.
McGee's lateral movement is pretty good and his hips are fairly smooth for a guy that size, as you can see in these drills also posted on YouTube. McGee will almost certainly become capable of locking down an assigned gap and bringing ball carriers down quickly. That's a skill that's in pitifully short supply in this era of spread offenses and basketball on turf, which extends all the way down to the high school level. There's a serious shortage of dudes who lock up their arms and drive through running backs. Amarlo Herrera did a lot of that in high school, and it was the chief thing I liked about him. I also like that about McGee. His movement meets the threshold requirements to play SEC linebacker. But it's the love of contact that will get him on the field in Athens.
While many folks will find the drills showcased in the two linked videos above about as boring as watching paint dry, they are useful for determining what a guy like McGee can do under controlled circumstances. It looks like McGee has the ability to move in space and "get to a spot." That's important for the "mike" and "moe" 'backers used in the Georgia defense. I'm also comfortable that McGee can drop into zone pass coverage if necessary, and hang with a tight end if he has to.
His is a skill set not every school needs. And McGee's offer list reflects that. Georgia and Alabama were his two biggest offers, and I imagine both offered him for the same reasons. But those weren't his only offers. McGee also had the chance to play at Michigan State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, North Carolina, Virginia, Wake Forest and Louisville. Is that a who's who of college football elites? No. But I think all those coaches saw a kid with a good frame who could play inside linebacker in the 3-4 and might grow into a solid 4-3 defensive end as well.
I think they also saw a young man who really seems to have his head screwed on right, as you can see in this video, in which McGee talked with ESPN's Radi Nabulsi about his decision:
I like a high school player who's not afraid of a little hard work. I think McGee will do what's asked of him, and I think he's going to grow into a guy we can count on at linebacker. Will he grow into Jarvis Jones? No. But I'm okay with that.