Johnny O'Neal might play right away at Georgia, as the Bulldogs are losing a lot at inside linebacker.
State of the position: The Bulldogs are likely losing three players that have started at inside linebacker this past season. Christian Robinson and Michael Gilliard are graduating. Alec Ogletree is expected to leave early for the NFL. That leaves sophomore Amarlo Herrera as the only returning player with a significant amount of experience. Herrera, who is fourth on the team in tackles, will be one of the inside starters next season. The other spot is up for grabs. Redshirt sophomore Brandon Burrows has only played in three games since arriving at Georgia due to multiple injuries. Sophomore Ramik Wilson saw action in 10 games this season, but has yet to start a game.
Pros: “While impressive physically, his best asset may be his instincts. He is quick to read and react and get off the mark. O'Neal has the first step and burst off the snap to beat blockers to the point of attack. He gets downhill quickly, stacking the run, and adjusts and redirects on the fly to cutbacks. He's tough, flashing knock 'em back playing strength. He demonstrates very good sideline-to-sideline playing speed and rarely over runs the ball. Flashes good under coverage route awareness with the ability to plant and break up on short throws. His quick feet and ability to change direction indicate zone and man coverage potential. ” -- ESPN scouting report
Cons: “He can punish ball carriers, but needs to work on improving his base and balance. He flashes the ability to take on and defeat blockers at the point of attack and make the tackle. However he's not an inside force yet. He will need to improve pad level and become quicker to disengage from blocks.” -- ESPN scouting report
Similar to/potential role: Amarlo Herrera. O’Neal is a powerful hitter like Herrera and has decent coverage skills. But where he mirrors Herrera the most would be in his instincts. O’Neal flies to the ball and hits through the runner. His highlight film should be Rated R for violence.
Expected impact: 2013. With an open spot at inside linebacker, O’Neal will try to impress Kirk Olivadotti early, just as he did when he attended camps at Georgia. O’Neal’s coach calls him the “silent assassin” because O’Neal seldom talks and prefers to let his play speak volumes. If he does not make an impact on the defense he will be a force on special teams.