Azeez Ojulari among Georgia's promising outside linebackers

Azeez Ojulari among Georgia's promising outside linebackers

August 12th, 2019 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari played in only three games as a true freshman but earned first-team status during spring practice.

Photo by Anthony Walsh

Not all redshirt seasons are the same in college football under the NCAA changes implemented last season.

With players allowed to compete in as many as four games and still redshirt, many freshmen got a taste a year ago against the easiest opponents on the schedule and have returned as redshirt freshmen.

Georgia outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari played in lopsided victories against Middle Tennessee State and Georgia Tech during the Bulldogs' 11-1 regular season, but his third appearance occurred in the Sugar Bowl. The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder from Marietta got extensive action against Texas and collected three tackles.

"It was a great experience for me out there and playing in a big game," Ojulari said in a recent news conference. "I had the opportunity to show what I could do."

A major benefit to the NCAA change was giving players a sample size from which to grow, and Ojulari appears to be someone who has capitalized. He was on the first-team defense during the G-Day spring game and has continued in that role along with junior Walter Grant so far this preseason.

The Bulldogs are deep at the outside linebacker positions, returning Adam Anderson and Robert Beal from last season and adding Jermaine Johnson and Nolan Smith in their 2019 signing class. Johnson was the nation's top junior college prospect, while Smith was the No. 1 high school recruit.

"We've got guys who can go with it and rush," Ojulari said, "but we're all versatile as well and can do whatever they want us to do."

Said Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart: "We're really pleased with the athleticism and the work ethic of that group."

A deep rotation is expected for Georgia's outside linebackers, a group that also included Brenton Cox until the former five-star talent transferred to Florida last week.

Ojulari was a solid four-star prospect in the 2018 signing class after amassing 118 tackles, 31 tackles for loss and 11 sacks during his senior season at Marietta High School. He helped Marietta reach the Class AAAAAAA state semifinals.

After wearing jersey No. 38 as a freshman, Ojulari is now in the No. 13 jersey worn last season by former defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter. He has added 10 pounds since the Sugar Bowl and has routinely gone up against preseason All-America left tackle Andrew Thomas in practice.

"It's not frustrating, because I know I'm getting better every day," Ojulari said. "It's a blessing."

The Bulldogs held their ninth preseason practice Monday, working out for two hours in full pads.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.


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