The commitment: LB Johnny O’Neal
Date Committed: March 24, 2012
Ranked: Four-star, No. 11 LB
Position status: Though the middle linebacker core lost its most physical facet, Alec Ogletree, it’s returning arguably one of the strongest pieces of the defense, Amarlo Herrera. The rising junior made major strides in the weight room this offseason and is noticeably much stronger in practice. Teammates and coaches also said that Herrera has shown signs of taking a bigger leadership role. He will, after all, be the signal caller on the defense at the ‘Mo’ linebacker position. Herrera might be the only big name that fans recognize right now, but Georgia signed four middle linebackers in its 2013 recruiting class, two of whom enrolled early (Reggie Carter and Ryne Rankin). There are nearly a dozen inside linebackers on the current roster, which should provide some eager competition come August when camp opens.
The evaluation: O’Neal has the Ogletree type of presence at linebacker, especially when it comes to hitting ability and overall strength. He’s a rugged tackler with great hands, and can shed blocks to make plays in the backfield. His downhill ability is also strong, but it sometimes hinders his lateral movement, which is an area he can improve upon.
Estimated impact: Because Georgia has to replace Ogletree, Mike Gilliard and Christian Robinson, O’Neal could come in and compete for early playing time. He’s got all the intangibles that Todd Grantham wants in a linebacker, so he will get a lot of reps during preseason camp.