The Georgia Bulldogs will head into the 2010 season with two experienced linebackers in both Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble. However, with the almost-certain departure of Rennie Curran to the NFL ranks, we will lose a very important cog to our linebacking corps.
That said, the Dawgs are already making plans to reload at linebacker and have their sights set on a few talented prospects at both the outside and middle linebacker position.
In the meantime, keep an eye on the emerging talent in the underclassmen ranks, as both Marcus Dowtin and Christian Robinson made solid contributions this season and will likely continue to do so in 2010.
Also, do not discount the signings of 2009—particularly big-hitting signee Shawn Williams, who has the potential to be something special once he gets the hang of the defense.
Now, on to the prospects:
Demetre Baker (pictured*), Orange Park High School, Orange Park, FL (verbal)
Baker is 6'0", 200 pounds, and is known for his big hit ability. He has great speed, having clocked in with a 4.45 40, and decent size for the position. He's got a ways to go before he's maximized his frame, but he is very athletic and can make solid plays coming off the edge as an outside linebacker.
As a junior, he racked up 80 tackles (18 for a loss) and six forced fumbles. He has a knack for getting to the ball and making plays behind the line of scrimmage.
His athleticism makes him a prospect at running back, as well. He rushed for 945 yards on 120 carries for Orange Park High this season—that's good for a 7.88 ypc average.
Add to that his 54 tackles, seven sacks, and one fumble recovery, and you get an idea of just how versatile this young man could be for the Dawgs.
Alexander Ogletree, Newnan High School, Newnan, GA (verbal)
Perhaps overshadowed by his brother, UGA safety commit Alec Ogletree, Zander Ogletree is a hard-working prospect with a good attitude.
He's not very big—5'9" and 205 lbs—but he is solid against the run and is a sure tackler.
He clocks in at a 5.39 40 but uses his instincts well when making plays.
Telvin Smith, Lowndes High School, Valdosta, GA (prospect)
Smith is an on-record Florida State commitment. He hasn't wavered on that all that much, but, as recently as the North-South game, he was giving the impression that his visit to FSU on Jan. 15 may not be the end of his recruiting journey.
That said, the Dawgs are one of the schools that he has a genuine interest in and that means they still have a shot at this gifted linebacker out of the fertile mecca that is Valdosta, Ga.
Smith is 6'4", 198 pounds, and rated as a three-star prospect by Scout.com (ESPN has him rated as a four-star).
No matter which classification system you are looking at, though, talent is talent, and Telvin Smith definitely has a load. In his senior season, he racked up 109 tackles and a sack to go with two picks.
He's tall and lanky but he's a sideline-to-sideline player who is capable of covering lots of ground very quickly—that 4.45 speed doesn't hurt him in that aspect. He reads defenses well and has the ability to get into the passing lanes quickly once he's on the move.
He will need to get stronger at the next level, but he is a fundamentally sound player on the field.
Deon Rogers, Treasure Coast High School, Port St. Lucie, FL (soft verbal)
A converted defensive end, Rogers knows a thing or two about attacking the passer off the edge. He's got good speed and a nice feel for the game.
His instincts are uncanny, and he has a knack for being around the ball on every play. He played alongside Jeff Luc, one of the more coveted defensive end prospects in this year's recruiting class, and that has done nothing to hurt his prospects.
He's athletic, quick off the snap, and capable of changing direction on a dime.
He committed to the Dawgs in November, prior to the firing of the defensive staff, but has recently shown some interest in visiting other schools. The Dawgs are hoping to hang on to his verbal.
*photo courtesy of ESPN.com
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