Going from an NFL club to a Southeastern Conference program didn’t necessarily mean that Kirk Olivadotti downgraded the type of players he works with on a daily basis.
At least physically, Alec Ogletree more than stacks up with some of the players the inside linebackers coach had with the Washington Redskins.
“He’s better looking than the guys I had at the ‘Skins,” said Olivadotti, in his first year at Georgia. “We were short, fat kids at the ‘Skins.”
Olivadotti coached London Fletcher, who is 5-foot-10 and 245 pounds, but was a Pro Bowler in 2009.
“London Fletcher don’t look really good all the time, but he plays really good,” Olivadotti said. “H.B. Blades (5-10, 242) was his backup and he don’t look really good either, but he plays pretty good.”
Ogletree is 6-3, 236, a similar body size to another Redskins linebacker, six-year NFL veteran Rocky McIntosh.
“He talks a lot about some guys he used to coach and how they get to their position, and they know what to do,” Ogletree said.
Ogletree, who moved from the secondary after last season, is picking up the finer points of his new position this preseason.
After starting the final four games at strong safety last year, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham moved the sophomore to inside linebacker this offseason. Ogletree made the transition during spring practice.
“It helped me a lot to learn what I needed to do and what I needed to work on,” Ogletree said. “Right now, it’s working out really good for us.”
The evidence: Ogletree led the team in tackles in both scrimmages, credited with eight each time out.
“He’s been making tons of tackles,” said junior Christian Robinson, who starts alongside Ogletree at inside linebacker. “In the scrimmage, he had like eight, nine tackles, and they were legit. He can play.”
“It’s really good to be able to lead the team in tackles,” Ogletree said. “I want to make tackles. That’s what I’m on defense for.”
Grantham saw a potential playmaker at linebacker in Ogletree because of his ability to run and hit.
He talked to him about how about his skill-set could allow him to flourish at the position in the 3-4 defense.
“He’s physical, he understands football, he understands where to be,” Grantham said. “He’s got a bright future playing where he’s playing. … Truthfully, in my mind that’s where he’s going to grow to be anyway. I think it’s a natural move.”
Ogletree had 34 tackles and a pass breakup at safety last year in his first season.
“He would’ve been successful at safety, but I think moving him to linebacker is one of the best decisions our coaches could’ve made for the overall success of our defense and our team,” outside linebacker Jarvis Jones said. “He can get off blocks. He can run sideline to sideline. He can make big plays. He’s a high energy guy and brings it every day.”
Coach Mark Richt calls Ogletree “an outstanding cover linebacker, as you might imagine, coming from the safety position.”
That could allow him to stay on the field when other linebackers might be replaced in some passing situations.
“He expands our playbook even more,” Robinson said. “He’s just athletic that he can cover those guys and he’s not going to get as tired because he’s been used to running all game.”
Ogletree, like most Georgia players, has NFL aspirations, but doesn’t care if that turns out to be at linebacker or safety.
Georgia certainly likes where he’s lining up now for its defense.
“We don’t have any doubt,” Richt said. “It was the best move for him and for Georgia.”