ATHENS — If linebacker Alec Ogletree played his last game between the hedges on Saturday it was a good one to go out on.
Twenty-one Georgia seniors were honored before the Georgia Tech game Saturday in a 10-minute ceremony shortly before kickoff. And it’s a foregone conclusion that junior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is playing his last season with the Bulldogs. The Butkus Award finalist and 2011 consensus All-American currently ranks No. 1 on most NFL projected draft boards, including the one ESPN’s well-respected “guru” Mel Kiper.
Then there’s Ogletree. The 6-foot-3, 241-pound junior turned in yet another dominating performance Saturday against the Yellows Jackets. Ogletree, who plays the “Mo” inside linebacker position for the Bulldogs recorded a game-high 15 tackles on Saturday. That gives him team-best 87 tackles on the season.
While it’s not unusual for an inside linebacker to lead the team in tackles, it is a bit surprising when that linebacker missed the first four games of the season due to suspension. In the eight games since, Ogletree has average 10.9 tackles per game.
“Tree’s a special player,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.
Said Georgia coach Mark Richt said: “He’s kind of tailor-made for this type of a defense. He can run sideline-to-sideline and you’ve got to have somebody like that who can make those kinds of hits. . . . For him to be able to fly like he can fly, it’s just hard for them to get the edge. Overall, Ogletree’s speed is a huge factor.”
It could be a huge factor at the next level as well. NFL scouts aren’t permitted to discuss underclassmen but one, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Ogletree has a first-round rating in terms of his physical skills. However, Ogletree’s suspension for a violation of Georgia’s marijuana-use policy could impact his value.
Ogletree insists he has spent no time or energy contemplating his future.
“I’m not even thinking about that,” Ogletree said following Saturday’s game. “I’m just worried about getting better before this next game. I’ll have a decision to make at the end of the season. But right now all I’m thinking about this next game. I’m trying to handle business here.”
At the time of Ogletree’s interview, he wasn’t sure who the Bulldogs opponent would be in the SEC Championship. But he had an idea it would be Alabama two hours before the Crimson Tide finalized their 49-0 win over Auburn.
Winning the SEC title is all that is on Ogletree’s mind.
“Last year was rough for us,” he said. “But we have a lot of returning starters and a lot of older guys this year. Hopefully all the pressure that’s going to be there and the atmosphere better this time.”
With No. 9 manning the middle, they have a chance.
Aaron Murray’s 3,000-yard club
With two completions on Georgia’s opening drive of the game, Aaron Murray became the first quarterback in SEC history to have three consecutive 3,000-yard seasons passing.
Murray, a junior and three-year starter from Tampa, finished with 215 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-17 passing. That gives him 3,201 yards on the season with 30 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
Murray had 3,149 yards, 35 TDs and 14 interceptions as a sophomore and 3,049 yards, 24 TDs and 8 interceptions his redshirt freshman season. He already holds the school record for TD passes (89) and remains third behind Eric Zeier (11,153) and David Greene (11,528) in career passing yardage (9,399).
“Aaron is a very good leader for us,” Richt said. “He’s very good at preparing himself and his teammates. He gets us in the right play a lot and he gets us in the right protection a lot. Because of that we’re not just guessing out there.”
Murray uncharacteristically left the Georgia locker room without talking to reporters. He told one reporter he was in a hurry to meet his parents.
John Jenkins lay face down and motionless for nearly a minute toward the end of the third quarter, and the Bulldog Nation held its collective breath for at least that long.
Fortunately for Georgia, Jenkins eventually got up with the help of trainers and walked off the field under his own power. Trainer Ron Courson worked on Jenkins right ankle on the Bulldogs’ sideline for several minutes and Jenkins took a seat on the bench. After the game he said he was fine.
“It was a little minor thing, it was just a spur of the moment type deal,” said Jenkins, who recorded a career high 11 tackles Saturday.. “I was trying to fight off a cut block and get my feet underneath me but before I could do so and two 300-pounders fell on my ankle. That’s a lot of weight. But I’m fine, I’m good. It shouldn’t be a problem going forward.”
The same couldn’t be said for backup defensive end Mike Thornton. His status was unknown on Saturday but the sophomore from Stone Mountain had to be helped off the field after suffering a leg injury in fourth quarter.
Etc. . . .
Georgia’s victory continued an unprecedented period of dominance for Georgia in this storied rivalry. It was the 11th win for Richt in 12 seasons with the Bulldogs – that’s the first 11-1 stretch in the series – and the 18th in the past 22. . . . Senior linebacker Christian Robinson had a career-high 13 tackles for the Bulldogs. Saturday’s game was listed as a sellout with an announced attendace of 92,746. But there were a lot of empty seats. Georgia Tech returned 1,900 of its 8,000-ticket allotment and there were many empty seats in the UGA student section. Georgia’s students remained on Thanksgiving break until Monday. . . .Governor Nathan Deal presented the Governor’s Cup trophy to the Bulldogs after the game. . . . Jon Stinchcomb honorary captain on Saturday. . . . Georgia set the school scoring record set on Keith Marshall’s 17-yard touchdown run at 6:00 third quarter. The Bulldogs have now scored 456 points this season, breaking the record of 450 set in 2004.