Ogletree chasing Rams' rookie records

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Newnan native Alec Ogletree currently leads St. Louis Rams defenders in tackles during the linebacker's rookie season in the NFL.

Alec Ogletree's pursuit of rookie records for the St. Louis Rams is almost as impressive as his pursuit of the football.

With three games left in his first NFL season, the Newnan nat ive is poi sed to snap teammate James Laurinaitis' record for most tackles as a Rams rookie linebacker.

Ogletree had a team-high 12 tackles for the Rams in last week's loss to the Arizona Cardinals, giving him the season lead with 121, one tackle more than fellow linebacker James Laurinaitis.

Ogletree is equally closing in on Laurinaitis' rookie tackles record from 2009, not that he hadn't noticed following Sunday's game. But when told he was on pace, the 22-year-old said breaking Laurinaitis' mark was a goal.

'I am trying to break his record he set,' Ogletree said. 'I can definitely say that.'

That may be far cry from where many league scouts saw Ogletree coming out of the University of Georgia. While most felt the former Cougar had first-round talent, 26 teams passed on him, including the Minnesota Vikings twice, before he was selected with the second of St. Louis' two first-round selections.

While some shied away particularly for off-the-field incidents both at Georgia and an arrest under suspicion of DUI while preparing for the league draft while training in Arizona, Ogletree has been a leaderby- example since arriving in St. Louis.

'Each week he does something that surprises you,' said Rams head coach Jeff Fisher. 'You say, 'Wow' on a positive side. He's tackled very well, got off blocks, ran much better this week in his pass coverage and things than he was last week.'

Ogletree's production has seen an increase over his past three games, registering 15 tackles in a 42-21 win over Chicago and 12 each against San Francisco and Arizona.

'I'm definitely at a different place,' Ogletree said. 'From week to week, I'm just trying to get better. From the first week until now, I feel a lot more comfortable with the scheme.'

It hasn't been an easy task for a rookie outside linebacker, especially playing in the NFC West. Along with facing San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis as well as Seattle's high power offense with Russell Wilson twice on the schedule, opponents have included facing All-Pro tight ends Jason Witten of Dallas and Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez.

This week, it's a visit from another highflying offense in the New Orleans Saints, which boasts quarterback Drew Brees and another talented All-Pro tight-end in Jimmy Graham.

'It's definitely a big challenge to have one of the best quarterbacks in the league and putting the ball in the right spot,' Ogletree said. 'We'll have to come up and make a few plays this week. We may have to double-team him, but when the time comes, we'll figure it out.'

So far, Ogletree's rookie season has also produced four forced fumbles, the most by a Rams linebacker since 2003. He's also scored two touchdowns, one in a preseason game against Denver along with a 98-yard interception return in Week 6 during a win over Houston, tying the NFL record for the longest touchdown return in the regular season by a linebacker, as well as the longest by a rookie linebacker.

His game jersey from the victory was added to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

'It was a little fun,' said the soft-spoken Ogletree. 'I've always wanted to do that.'

Ogletree has been an everydown player from the start, adjusting to the increased demands in the NFL. More than the speed of the game, the biggest transition has been decision-making.

'I wouldn't necessarily say the speed, but more the mental part of it,' Ogletree said. 'You just to have to know what you're doing, and if you make a mistake it can cost the whole team. They can score a touchdown just that fast.'

Ogletree had 11 tackles and a forced fumble against Arizona in his NFL debut. He had 10 tackles at Dallas, and 11 tackles and a forced fumble in St. Louis' first game against the 49ers.

The Newnan native, who was a part of back-to-back Cougar teams that reached the GHSA state semifinals in 2008 and 2009, may be an underdog for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. ESPN.com has Bills linebacker Kiko Alonzo (131 tackles), Jets lineman Sheldon Richardson (65 tackles) and Panthers tackle Star Lotulelei as favorites for the award this week.

But not many defensive rookies been as consistent through the year while being able to handle the workload that's been put in front of Ogletree, who hasn't felt like he's hit the 'wall' that sees some first-year players struggle past Game 13, the end point of most college seasons.

'I think guys hit that if they're not taking care of their bodies,' Ogletree said this week. 'But Coach Fisher does a great job keeping us healthy for the most part.'



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