ATHENS, Ga. — By normal recruiting rules, Georgia’s football coaches had the sequence wrong: They were supposed to offer the smaller, less-regarded twin brother first, and hope it would induce the bigger fish.
Then again, the Ogletree brothers already were used to going out of order.
Alexander, or Zander as he came to be called, was born first, by two minutes. Then came Alec.
But Alec grew to be the taller one, the kid that college football programs sought. It took nearly two years after Georgia offered Alec for the team to also offer his twin brother.
And now they are Bulldogs, sharing a room together for the first time since they were 10. And both, not just the highly recruited Alec, are impressing coaches.
“They’re both very tough football players,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “They’re ball-players. They’re no-nonsense kind of football players. I know Alec had more accolades coming into this thing. But if you talk to their team and their coaches and all that about Zander, you’ve got a gem in Zander.”
The two are fraternal twins. Alec, a safety, is 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, which along with his last name led to him being nicknamed “Tree.” Zander, a fullback, is 4 inches shorter and about 10 pounds lighter. They don’t look much alike.
“It’s hard to believe when you look at them that they’re twins,” said Georgia assistant coach Rodney Garner.
They also differ in personality.
“He’s more outgoing,” Alec said. “I’m not saying I’m not an outgoing guy. But he’s the life of the party sometimes. More than me.”
Other than all that, however, the lives of the two have been intertwined.
Not only did they grow up playing football together, the brothers also started on the Newnan High School basketball team, which reached the state semifinals.
Alec was one of the nation’s top recruits. He was a Parade All-American, an Under-Armour All-American and a USA Today first-teamer.
He was offered a scholarship by Georgia the summer before his junior year, then committed a year later. It took until after football season for the staff to decide to offer his brother.
“We recruited Tree from day one, like everybody else in the country,” said Garner, who is Georgia’s defensive coordinator. “And we liked Zander. It was like everyone else. He might’ve been a better player than Tree. But the size thing I think scared a lot of people.”
Zander might have been a better high school player, according to Garner. Zander had 90 tackles as a senior, five more than Alec, and was all over the field, recording sacks, an interception, and blocking punts and kicks.
When Georgia’s staff visited Newnan, coach Mike McDonald kept trying to sell the staff on Zander.
“That’s all he talked about, was Zander,” Garner said. “Then when I went and watched him play in a playoff game, I came back and told coach, ‘Coach, I know it is what it is, but he is a heck of a player. He’ll help us somewhere, whether it’s fullback or special teams or wherever, just because of what he’s got inside of him.”
The brothers had hoped to play together. But for a while, until Georgia decided to offer Zander, there was some doubt.
“But I wasn’t too much worried about that, because he can hold his own,” Alec said. “I figured, if he didn’t get here, he could still go somewhere and do what he needed to do.”
Alec has the size and the speed to be a great safety. He also may be ahead of most freshmen because he has played the position for years. Normally a player of his position plays linebacker in high school then gets moved back after he gets to college.
“He can do the DB things,” Georgia secondary coach Scott Lakatos said. “That’s what we wanted to look at when he first got here: Is he athletic enough and quick enough to do the things a safety would need to do in our package? It’s pretty nice to have a 230-pound safety.”
Georgia finally offered Zander when it decided it wanted to take a fullback. He could redshirt this year, then contend for playing time next year, when the two seniors ahead of him on the depth chart leave.
Meanwhile, running backs coach Bryan McClendon said Zander has picked up the offense well.
“I do believe in time he’s gonna be a very special player,” McClendon said.
Just like, perhaps, his younger brother by two minutes.
“It’s a blessing to play with your brother,” Zander said. “Your blood brother, and you’ve been with him through thick and thin. I mean, just to know that you go to the same college as him, you can’t want anything better than that.”