Ogletree poised to pack even more punch

To get ready for the start of Georgia’s spring football practice Tuesday, DawgNation will do a position breakdown each day and feature one player to watch at that position. Today we look at the linebackers and junior Alec Ogletree.

ATHENS, Ga. -- One of the top stories heading into Georgia’s spring practice last year was how Alec Ogletree would fare after shifting from safety to inside linebacker.

We got a taste last season, and the results were impressive. But how much better can he get with a full season at the position?

Ogletree suffered a broken foot early in the season-opening loss against Boise State and didn’t return until Game 8 against Florida. Upon his return Ogletree was a defensive terror, splitting his time between inside and outside linebacker and wreaking havoc from everywhere.

He led the team in tackles in each of the final five games, including a career-high 13 stops, two for negative yardage, and two pass breakups against Michigan State in the Outback Bowl. Through only eight games he finished seventh on the team with 52 tackles, made 7.5 tackles for loss and led the Bulldogs with three forced fumbles.

And he figures to only get better entering his second season at the position, where it would hardly be a surprise to see him contend for All-SEC honors.

Georgia’s linebackers transitioned from a question mark to a strength of the team over the course of the 2011 season, thanks not only to Ogletree’s emergence, but that of Amarlo Herrera and Mike Gilliard. Of course, Jarvis Jones also outshined all reasonable expectations by leading the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss.

The Bulldogs also have developed depth with Christian Robinson, Herrera and Chase Vasser all starting at least three games apiece, as well. Others like Ramik Wilson or Brandon Burrows could possibly work their way into the rotation by performing well in the spring.

But Georgia’s linebackers have largely settled who deserves the bulk of the playing time -- and Jones and Ogletree are the guys who provide the star power.

Jones started every game and was the breakout performer on Georgia’s defense a season ago. Ogletree gave the Bulldogs half of a breakout season because of an injury, but he will join Jones as a legitimate headliner if he manages to remain healthy for a full year in 2012.