Coach Spotlight: Geraldo Orta

Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Ga., is becoming a hotbed to find good defensive backs. In 2009, they sent Gerald Demps and Greg Reid to Florida State, as well as Marcus Solomon to Alabama State. The Vikings reloaded for the class of 2011 and are set to send Tyler Hunter to FSU, Kenneth Durden to South Florida, and Geraldo Orta to Tennessee.

Geraldo Orta, 6-0, 185, committed to the Vols a week after traveling to Knoxville for an official visit. Despite playing his senior season with a nagging shoulder injury, Randy Hill, Lowndes Defensive Coordinator and Secondary coach, says he's had quite a prep career at the south Georgia High School.

"In 2007 after the season ended for the freshman team, we used him in the the last regular season games and the playoffs in nickel and dime situations," said Hill. "He played a lot in the state championship game. After that he was a starter in his next three years."

Lowndes won Georgia's 5A state title in 2007. Orta continued his progression and turned in an outstanding junior season with 85 tackles, four tackles for loss, and six interceptions at free safety.

"Geraldo has a knack for the football," Hill said. "He can come up and strike you. He plays the game very fast. In a game we played against Valdosta during his junior season, he was just outstanding. He made several big plays for us and was named the game's MVP."

In the 2009 game versus Valdosta, Orta had 6sixtackles, two interceptions, and a safety in the 57-15 win. The game was televised by CBS College Sports Network.

"In his senior season he injured his shoulder in the first game of the year against South Gwinnett," Hill said. "He came back, but re-injured it in the Ware County game. He played most of the year in pain.

"If his shoulder would pop out he'd sort of reset it, and pop it back in and continue playing. He was a real leader for us. Being able to do that spoke volumes about his heart and will to compete to the other players and the coaches.""

Originally Orta was briefly committed to Clemson during his recruitment. He was offered by South Carolina, Tennessee, Wake Forest, Maryland, Mississippi State, North Carolina, South Florida and Central Florida.

Eric Russell, Tennessee's special teams coordinator, recruited him for the Vols. A week after his official visit he decided to not wait any longer and gave his verbal pledge to Tennessee.

"I spoke with Geraldo briefly at the football banquet," said Hill. "He said he thought Tennessee was the place he needed to go. He talked about their great facilities, how the river runs by the stadium, and that it was a special place. He's excited to play in front of 100,000 screaming fans on Saturdays."

Although Orta's numbers as a senior were down from his standout junior performance he was still an integral part of a 10-3 Lowndes team that made it to the 3rd round of the state playoffs. In his final game, the Vikings were upset by Collins Hill at Martin Stadium, nicknamed "The Concrete Palace."

"Geraldo came to us from a Georgia Sheriff's Youth Ranch," said Hill. "He came from a broken home and was adopted by a local family here. He's had a lot to overcome, but he's never used it as an excuse. He does good both on the field and in the classroom. I expect him to do great things at Tennessee."

Randy Hill has been at Lowndes High School since 1992. In 2007 he was named GACA Assistant Coach of the Year.

Hill reports Orta needs to only make one point higher on the admission exam to fully qualify. He's confident that won't be a problem for Orta to achieve. Lowndes graduates in late May. They plan on a Signing Day ceremony to honor those signing scholarship's on February 2nd. Orta wore No. 26 for the Crimson & White Vikings.

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