Georgia’s pro prospects face uncertain future

semerson@macon.comNovember 20, 2012 

ATHENS -- Aaron Murray has more than 50,000 followers on Twitter, and more than a few of them alerted the Georgia quarterback to an interesting tweet on Monday.

Tony Dungy, the retired NFL head coach, wrote this in response to a Kansas City Chiefs fan who asked who his team should take with the first or second pick in April’s draft: “I would take Georgia QB Aaron Murray if he comes out.”

Dungy might not be completely objective: His son Eric was one of Murray’s high school teammates in Tampa, Fla., and Dungy and Murray have stayed in touch.

Plus, the key part is “if he comes out,” and Murray was adamant Tuesday that he won’t figure that out until the end of the season.

Not that he didn’t enjoy hearing what Dungy said.

“That was definitely cool to hear,” Murray said.

It’s strange to say this, but Murray’s potential leap into the NFL draft has been an under-the-radar story for Georgia, which plays its final home game on Saturday.

The team has a couple defensive stars -- Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree -- who are likely to go high in the draft if they leave. ESPN’s two main draft analysts are of similar minds on Jones and Ogletree: Jones is No. 1 on the overall board by both Mel Kiper and Todd McShay. Ogletree is No. 17 overall, according to McShay, and No. 20 on Kiper’s list.

But Murray is a harder one to figure out. His stats would say he’s a prospect. But his height -- he’s listed at just 6-foot-1 -- doesn’t make him a surefire prospect.

Murray is rated the 52nd overall prospect for 2013 by CBSsports.com. He’s the fifth-rated quarterback, behind West Virginia’s Geno Smith, Southern California’s Matt Barkley, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson and Florida State’s E.J. Manuel. All of them are seniors.

Murray did send his name in last year to the NFL draft advisory board, but he said at the time he only did so because he was curious and not serious about it.

This time, he is likely to be more serious about it.

“I mean, I’ve had friends and everyone ask me,” Murray said. “I’m like, I don’t know, I’m not worrying about that until after the season, and then I’ll sit down with my ­family and make the best decision for myself and for my future.”

He’s not the only one.

Last year, Georgia had nearly a dozen players contemplate the jump, but, in the end, only tight end Orson Charles did. Then again, none of the defensive players who stayed was a sure first-round pick -- other than Jones, then a third-year sophomore. Jones has seemed more open to the possibility of leaving after this year.

The feeling around the program is that this time it will be a surprise if Jones, Ogletree and even nose tackle Kwame Geathers stick around. It’s the cost of having a championship-caliber team.

“Coach (Mark) Richt has always told us more guys get drafted on winning teams,” senior linebacker Christian Robinson said. “Guys leave early, and they play on winning teams. It’d be hard. I can’t speak for them. If they have the opportunity to go and play and they’re at their best, I think it’d be difficult. It comes down to each guy. Jarvis is just about the same, Maybe he’s a little bit higher this year, but he was a first-round draft pick. He turned down a lot of money, instant money, but he backed it up. You never know. Some guys, it could be a bad thing if they got hurt. So it’s a tough decision to make.”

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham spent 11 years in the NFL prior to coming to Georgia in 2010. He said he talks to contacts in the NFL and “get a feel for where they’re going to go.” He also throws in his own thoughts. That doesn’t just mean what round they might be selected.

“Sometimes it might mean the number of guys at a position. The amount of talent, or lack of talent,” Grantham said. “And then it’s also (a matter) of where you might be the following year. What’s it look like for next year? What’s your growth, and what can you do to improve your stock? Because what you’re looking at is your draft status, you’re paid more the higher you get drafted. So, in some ways, you can earn more money by staying in school.”

Is there any danger of misinformation getting in somebody’s head?

“Not if they listen to what I’m gonna tell them,” Grantham said.

Ogletree didn’t want to say much when asked on Monday if this might be his final home game.

“I’m a Georgia Bulldog, when that time comes, I’ll make that decision with my parents,” Ogletree said. “Wherever that goes.”

Ogletree has yet to play a complete season, injured as a sophomore and suspended the first four games of this season. But his seven games so far have shown why he’s a top prospect, as he’s within one tackle of the team lead despite having played four games less than everyone else. Ogletree also has two sacks, an interception and 6.5 tackles for loss.

Ogletree’s position coach, Kirk, Olivadotti, was an NFL assistant coach for 11 years before coming to Georgia two years ago. But he doesn’t want to offer any public advice for his player. And when asked if it was just a matter of when Ogletree will be playing on Sundays, Olivadotti had a six-word response.

“He’s playing on Saturday this week,” he said.

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