Reggie Carter embraces the 'sleeper' prospect label

semerson@macon.comFebruary 12, 2013 

ATHENS - Some say it should have been, but Reggie Carter's name was not the most prominently mentioned in Georgia's recruiting class. So when he arrived on campus last month, the inside linebacker from Snellville had already heard a one-word description attached to himself, and he kept hearing it leading up to signing day.

"That's what I'm gonna put on my room: 'Sleeper,'" Carter said last week, smiling and pretending to write. "I'm gonna go home tonight and write 'Sleeper' in big letters."

Ah, the sleeper label: It's part compliment, because it means the analysts believe you have potential at the college level, that you were overlooked. But it can also be an insult, because, well, you were overlooked.

So what does Carter take it as?

"I look at it as motivation," he said. "Because I know what I can do, and the people that know me know what I can do. So being called a sleeper it's a motivation. I don't look at it as something to keep me down."

Carter was rated a four-star prospect by Rivals.com and Scout.com, but he was only a three-star by 247sports.com and ESPN.com. He did not appear on any national top 100 lists.

There are two reasons Carter was downgraded: He tore his ACL as a junior at South Gwinnett High School, limiting his playing time as a senior. He's also not the biggest guy: He's listed at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds.

But multiple analysts I spoke to leading up to signing day mentioned Carter when I asked for a sleeper candidate from Georgia's 2013 class.

"He fits well into the (Georgia) scheme so well," said J.C. Schurburtt, the national recruit analyst for 247sports.com. "He's an undersized D-end, linebacker guy."

Ask Carter who he compares himself to, and he has a quick - and intriguing - answer: Jonathan Vilma, the New Orleans Saints linebacker more famous lately for the bounty scandal, and his outspoken defense of himself. But before all that Vilma (6-1, 240 pounds) was a perennial all-Pro.

"A short, fast guy," Carter said. "And smart too."

But Carter says he can rush from the outside too. That doesn't mean he would play outside linebacker, but that he would be versatile.

By enrolling early, Carter hopes to get a leg up in the battle to be the other starting inside linebacker. Amarlo Herrera is entrenched, otherwise the competition is veteran Brandon Burrows, possibly veteran Ramik Wilson if he doesn't stay outside, and fellow early enrollee Ryne Rankin, and incoming freshmen Tim Kimbrough and Johny O'Neal

Carter is confident.

"It's exciting, actually, to come up here and play your freshman year. Because you get that out of the way, then you've got, what, two years left, then you can leave."

Wait, that means only three total years. So the sleeper of the class is already planning on being good enough to bolt early for the pros?

"Oh yeah, three," Carter said, correcting himself.

Then he grinned, either sheepish about the math mistake, or feeling he knows something that others don't.

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