ATHENS — It was easy to spot Alec Ogletree in Georgia’s first practice of the week.
Just look for the most hyper inside linebacker.
Linebacker and Chestatee High grad Chase Vasser, who calls Ogletree “a freak of nature,” said Tuesday the sophomore’s enthusiasm was obvious in No. 22 Georgia’s workout for Saturday’s game against Florida.
Ogletree is returning this week after breaking his right foot in the Bulldogs’ opening loss to Boise State on Sept. 3. Vasser says Ogletree “was all hyped up” and “jumping around” in Monday’s practice.
Ogletree says he may need a few plays against Florida before he feels comfortable making his much-anticipated return for the Bulldogs.
“It’ll be kind of crazy the first drive or so with me being back out there for the first time,” Ogletree said Tuesday. “After that, I’m pretty sure it will be the same as it was before.”
Coach Mark Richt valued Ogletree as a key to the middle of the defense before the sophomore from Newnan was injured on Georgia’s second series against Boise State.
Ogletree was lost for six weeks before he could even make a tackle.
Georgia’s crisis at inside linebacker became more severe when its other starter, Christian Robinson, was injured the following week against South Carolina and missed the next two games.
The Bulldogs recovered from their 0-2 start to win five straight as junior Michael Gilliard and freshman Amarlo Herrera emerged at linebacker.
Richt hasn’t revealed his plans at linebacker against Florida — at least not his complete plan.
“I can’t tell you for sure who’s going to start at linebacker,” Richt said. “I know ‘Tree will be one of them.”
Ogletree (6-3, 236) is in his first season at linebacker. He started five games at safety as a freshman last season.
Richt was counting on Ogletree’s move to linebacker to give Georgia (5-2 overall, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) more speed in the middle of its defense.
Vasser said Ogletree’s athleticism is obvious.
“He is a phenomenal athlete,” Vasser said. “He’s always going to be in perfect health. I’ve seen him eat beanies and cheeseburgers right before we go run and he beats everybody on the run. He’s just a freak of nature.”
Vasser said Ogletree “looked great” and “was moving perfectly fine” in practice.
“Nothing looked wrong with him,” Vasser said. “He was making plays like he usually does. ... You could tell he was out there all hyped up.”
Vasser said Ogletree “was jumping around after he made tackles. You could tell he was excited to be back, especially coming back on a great week.”
Ogletree, who says his surgically repaired foot is “good,” said there was a logical reason he was so active.
“It kind of looked like that because I’m kind of the only guy out there with fresh legs,” he said. “Everybody has been playing the whole season. I’m the only one who came back with fresh legs. It kind of looked like I came back with more excitement.”
Richt said Georgia’s defense will need Ogletree as an answer for the speed of Florida’s offense, including running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps.
“They are a very talented team as always, very fast team,” Richt said. “That’s the one thing that sticks out more than anything is just the team speed, offense, defense, special teams. We have issues to deal with in that regard.”
Richt said the good news is Ogletree “looked fast, looked quick” in practice.
“He didn’t look very rusty to me,” Richt said. “I’m sure there will be some rust on him once we get in the game, but he looked good. I think he has total confidence in the healing of his foot.”
Two starters on defense — nosetackle Kwame Geathers and strong safety Shawn Williams — will miss the first half against Florida. The two were suspended by the SEC for the first half for personal fouls in Georgia’s 33-28 win at Vanderbilt on Oct. 15.
John Jenkins will start at nosetackle. Sanders Commings, who has started the last four games at cornerback, may start at strong safety.
Richt said the first-half solution at nosetackle is easier than at safety.
“I know how we’re going to do it,” he said. “I’m not going to say how.”
Added Richt: “We’re glad we’re getting them both back in the second half, I can say that.”
With Ogletree’s return, Georgia could open the second half with its original starting defense for the first time this season. Safety Bacarri Rambo was suspended for the opening game.
Outside linebacker Cornelius Washington is returning from a two-game suspension following his arrest and charge with driving under the influence and speeding on Oct. 1.
NOTES: WR Malcolm Mitchell, returning from a hamstring injury, “didn’t do well” while practicing only about five minutes on Monday, according to Richt. QB Aaron Murray said Mitchell told him he’ll be ready for the game. ... WR Rantavious Wooten (concussion) could miss his fifth straight game. Richt said a medical redshirt is a possibility for Wooten, but he added “There’s still a lot of football to be played.”