Alec Ogletree has earned a reputation for being one of the more active linebackers in the league. Upon being hired as the Rams' assistant head coach/linebackers coach, Joe Barry repeatedly expressed his excitement for being able to work with him.
And with good reason. In his first year as Los Angeles' middle linebacker, Ogletree recorded a team-high 171 tackles — a mark fifth in franchise history. And through a week of OTAs, Barry's excitement for his first season with Ogletree has only grown.
"He's a blast to work with," Barry said this week. "The great thing about the NFL and our league is that, really, you get to know everybody — even if it's somewhat indirectly — because of the Combine, because of the process when guys come out. So I remember interviewing 'Tree at the Combine. I remember I did it individually, we brought him in for a formal interview when I was in San Diego. And it's cool however many years later — five years later — to now be with him."
The admiration between coach and player is mutual, extending to defensive coordinator Wade Philips as well.
"They're good people," Ogletree said. "Coach Wade is a calm dude, but he throws little jokes in there, so if you're not really listening, you'll miss it. But he's a good person to know, and he's got a lot of experience — him and Joe. And I'm really enjoying having them in the room."'
Despite the change to a 3-4 base defense under Phillips, Ogletree said the transition isn't too significant.
"It's not much different, I guess you would say — just because I played the 'Mike' last year and I'm still playing the same position," Ogletree said. "The calls are different and that's really about it. Everything else is still pretty much the same."
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"It's just words. It's terminology, you know? Everyone somewhat runs the same coverages," Barry said. "Everyone runs man-free. Everyone runs three-deep. But it's just maybe what he's been used to calling 'apples' the last five years, well now it's 'oranges.' And in your head you've got to transfer over, 'Oh my gosh, we call that oranges now.'"
When Ogletree took over at middle linebacker last offseason, one question that continually came up was his comfort with the leadership role that comes with it. After a year in the role — and as a defensive captain — Ogletree has grown into the role.
"It's going on my fifth year in the league, second year as mike linebacker — definitely a lot more comfortable with the position than I was last year," Ogletree said. "I just try to remember what I did well last year, and try to improve on some things that I didn't do last year. And as far as leadership goes, it's about just holding guys accountable and all that. So I just try to do my part on that and just lead by example, and do the right thing."
"He's phenomenal with the guys in the huddle, on the field, obviously," Barry said. "But just listening to him, and watching him in the meetings in that setting, seeing him in the weight room this offseason with him working — he's our leader. And it's cool to see that."
According to Barry, Ogletree's work ethic reflects importance of being the quarterback of the defense. Barry praised how detailed Ogletree has been in his preparation, saying it's a sign of the linebacker's maturity.
"Just the way he is, he's such a professional and he really does try to be a perfectionist," Barry said. "I walk through my meeting room every morning at 6:30 in the chow hall, and there's 'Tree in the meeting room watching film — every single day. We've talked about consistency as the truest measure of performance — he's consistent every single day."
And so as Week 1 of Phase III ends, Barry feels good about the way his middle linebacker has progressed throughout the offseason program.
"He's a little bit better today after OTA No. 3 than he was after the first day of Phase I," Barry said. "Now hopefully, we just keep building blocks and I'll be saying the same thing next Friday after OTA No. 6. And then, again, the process just continues, just building blocks and getting better and better."