It would seem unfair to ask Amarlo Herrera to replace the playmaking abilities of Alec Ogletree. Or at least it would be unfair if Herrera wasn't begging for the comparison to be made.
"I wanna be a big-time playmaker, like he was," Herrera said. "I think I can. I did it while he was suspended. So I think I can be that guy."
Well, okay then.
Ogletree was a spectacular defensive playmaker the past couple seasons, leading the Georgia football team in tackles despite being suspended those first four games of last season. He was so skilled that the St. Louis Rams overlooked the off-field problems and made him a first-round pick.
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While Ogletree offered unusual playmaking ability for an inside linebacker, Herrera, who started nine games last year as a sophomore, seems more similar to Akeem Dent, the Bulldogs' leading tackler in 2010. Dent, who went on to be a third-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons, was a hard-nosed defender who racked up tackles, though not many sacks or turnovers.
Herrera, in two seasons, has no sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery, but 107 tackles. And on a very young and inexperienced defense, especially at inside linebacker, you'd think Herrera's charge would be to remain a dependable tackling machine, especially since Ogletree was a unique talent.
But the native of College Park isn't just talking about playing more like Ogletree, he's trying to change his body to that effect.
He's dropped down to 235 pounds, after being listed at 245 as a sophomore. Herrera said he's eating better and working out more, about six days a week. It's in an effort to more easily make the sideline-to-sideline plays that Ogletree became known for making.
"I'm just trying to move better so I can meet people better in the hole, and react faster and just get to the ball faster than I was before," Herrera said.
Herrera has been in Athens since May, and has hardly been home. He didn't go home much since he started his college career, but this summer he's been ever more centered on the Butts-Mehre athletic complex.
"Ever since that last game, I've been excited. That's what's been driving me to play hard, and work so hard for the season," Herrera said.
Herrera is the only returning inside linebacker with significant playing experience. Fellow junior Ramik Wilson won the first-team job in spring practice, while freshman Reggie Carter made a push. There could be other options if Wilson isn't up to par, but Herrera feels he will be.
"He's working hard and he knows the system the most," Herrera said. "So he has his a hand up on those guys."
The big news for the Georgia defense this summer was that sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons is suspended for the Clemson game. That means the team needs someone else to play the critical nickel-back role against Clemson.
It will have a big effect on the defense, Herrera acknowledged, but he pointed out that cornerback Damian Swann played that role well last year, and that another young player or veteran safety Connor Norman could handle the role for one game.
"It's gonna effect us a good bit," Herrera acknowledged. "But we've got more guys that are here that are ready to step up and make some plays, that haven't played, and are ready to show people that they can play."
Just like Herrera wants to show people that he's more than just a guy who can tackle.