UGA 'family' extends to football roster

ATHENS, Ga. -- Listen to coaches speak for long enough, and they invariably will compare their team to a family.

Georgia's football program takes that overused cliché literally.

The Bulldogs' roster includes two sets of brothers, Hunter and Austin Long and Alec and Zander Ogletree, this season after having three in 2010 -- a group that included Aaron and Josh Murray and walk-ons Blake and Josh Sailors.

"My dad and I talked about that before Hunter got here, saying how crazy it would be to have this many brothers on the team. It's actually pretty cool," said Austin Long, a redshirt sophomore offensive tackle from Memphis. "I'm really lucky because me and my brother, we're really close, and we played together my senior year. I just think it's really cool to be able to continue to play with him."

Mark Richt's coaching staff is on pace to add at least one more set of brothers next year -- John Theus, ESPNU's No. 27 national prospect, has committed to join older brother Nathan on Georgia's offensive line -- and could add another if they are able to convince Dillon Lee, already an Alabama commitment, to become older brother Dallas' teammate in Athens.

The Lees are a family full of Georgia fans, but Dallas said they haven't pressured Dillon to become a Bulldog. However, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound linebacker from Buford, Ga., frequently attends Georgia games as the family watches Dallas perform.

"We told him it's his decision from the beginning," said Dallas, a redshirt sophomore offensive guard who made his first career start last Saturday against South Carolina. "Obviously I'd love for him to come play with me, but at the end of the day, it's whatever fits him best. I don't put any pressure on him to come. I know my parents don't. They've been open to anything and everything as far as schools he wants to go to."

It never hurts to have an inside source, though, and Georgia's coaching staff communicates with Dallas about his younger brother, who ranks 54th in the ESPNU 150.

"The coaches like to come up and talk to me about him. It's understandable and you expect them to," Dallas said. "It's somebody they're recruiting, and somebody they can talk to about him, and they don't have to worry about NCAA rules and whatnot. So I just talk to them whenever they ask about him."

There are dozens of family connections in the last two decades of Georgia's football history, including Champ, Boss and Ronald Bailey, Robert and Terrence Edwards, Jon and Matt Stinchcomb, Robert and Kwame Geathers, and Kevin and Drew Butler, to name a handful.

What makes the last few years unique is the number of brothers who played on the same team.

This year, freshman Hunter Long joined Austin on the Bulldogs' offensive line, while sophomore twins Alec and Zander Ogletree regularly square off in practice, with linebacker Alec colliding with his fullback brother as he attempts to block for a tailback.

"Every time Alec blitzes, Zander's trying to knock his head off and Alec's trying to knock his head off," quarterback Aaron Murray laughed. "And after the play, they're yelling and screaming at each other. But it's just the way they grew up. They're just competitors and it's a family feud sort of thing, but it makes it a lot more fun."

The Ogletrees take the family feud home, as well, at least when it comes to home décor.

The brothers, who shared a room until their sister moved out of the house when they were high school freshmen, now share an on-campus apartment at UGA's East Campus Village. Alec rarely approves of the frequent rearrangements Zander makes in the room, prompting Zander to remind him which of them is the older brother -- even if it's only by two minutes.

"I feel like he's more the junky type," Zander said. "I'm the one who always wants to rearrange stuff. I don't like looking at the same look every day, so I change stuff up sometimes. Sometimes he doesn't like it, but he's gotta deal with it because I'm the older brother."

The Ogletrees came to Georgia together, but it was unclear for some time whether they'd eventually become college teammates. Alec, the highest-rated member of the Bulldogs' 2010 signing class, committed to Georgia six months before Zander received a scholarship offer from Richt's staff.

Now they're both Bulldogs, making travel arrangements much more manageable for their family.

"It's a blessing," Zander Ogletree said. "People wish they could play with their siblings or other members of their family. Just for me to have the opportunity to play with my brother, I just feel like it's a blessing that God has given us to be able to play with each other, and we've got to make the best of it."

The lure of joining a family member on the team is the most obvious recruiting aid for the Bulldogs, but it's not the only advantage.

Since Hunter Long already had a brother on campus, he and some other offensive line prospects he befriended during the recruiting process -- Watts Dantzler, Nathan Theus and David Andrews -- spent plenty of time in Athens and had an easier time getting to know the players. By the time they arrived on campus as students, they already felt at home in their surroundings.

"Watts was here all the time and so were David and Nathan and I feel like, coming in, they felt comfortable being with the team because they'd been around us all the time," Austin Long said. "I think that's pretty cool because when I came here I really didn't know anybody. Aaron and Dallas were really the only people I talked to on a regular basis, and Chris Burnette. It would've been cool for me to have an older brother to look up to and ask questions and help me find my way around to everything. That's pretty special for him."

The brotherly bond among some of the players also extends between brothers and recruits. After getting to know Nathan Theus on his visits to Athens with Hunter Long before enrollment, Austin Long said he also became friends with Nathan's heavily recruited younger brother.

Now they keep in touch on a regular basis, as well.

"As big as the recruiting thing's gotten, they come up here all the time. Even John Theus, I text him once a week, twice a week, and we keep in touch," Austin Long said.

The reason coaches play the family card so often is they realize there is often a correlation between players caring about one another and on-field success. The speech resonates exponentially when some of the players in the audience are literally brothers.

That tie between family members has been highly beneficial in the locker room, according to the Bulldogs brothers.

"You definitely want to have that family atmosphere where everyone's close-knit and hanging out together, and I think we've had that since I've been here, really, just a close-knit team," Aaron Murray said. "I think that makes you better on the field, how close you are."

David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at davidchingespn@gmail.com.