Q&A: UGA’s Natrez Patrick makes name for himself as inside linebacker

Sophomore Natrez Patrick has proven to be a force to be reckoned with playing inside linebacker for the Georgia Bulldogs. KEN WARD / UGA

5 QUESTIONS WITH UGA LB NATREZ PATRICK

ATHENS — First off, about Natrez Patrick’s first name: It’s pronounced NAY-trez. It’s not nuh-TREZ or NAH-trez or NAT-trez or any of the other ways he has heard it butchered throughout his life.

Slowly, though, his is a name that’s becoming much more familiar to Georgia fans. The sophomore middle linebacker from Atlanta has become a regular on the Bulldogs’ defense and, as evidenced already in this young season, Georgia play-by-play man Scott Howard finds himself calling Patrick’s name and more each fall Saturday.

Patrick is currently second on the team with 11 tackles. He also has two quarterback pressures and a tackle for loss.

“My mom’s name is Nature,” Patrick said of the derivation of his unusual first name. “So it just kind of came from her.”

Asked how often his name is mispronounced, Patrick laughed. “All the time,” he said.

By any name, the Bulldogs are glad they have Patrick patrolling the middle of the defense for them this season. For a while, they didn’t know what they were going to do with him.

He signed with UGA out of Atlanta’s Mays High as an outside linebacker with visions of becoming the next Jarvis Jones and chasing down quarterbacks. It was as a defensive end that Patrick was evaluated by all the recruiting services when he was in high school, and he drew high marks. He was rated as the No. 2 weakside defensive end in the country by Rivals.com and had a consensus 4-star recruiting ranking overall.

But outside linebackers was not what the Bulldogs needed once he showed up on campus. It was inside the tackles that Georgia needed help. And once they moved the 6-foot-3, 248-pound athlete inside, they realized he could make them better there.

Patrick ended up starting two games at middle linebacker as a true freshman last season and played in 11 overall. He had 22 tackles, a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss.

This season, Patrick lost 20 pounds to get to his current playing weight of 228 and finds himself in a three-man rotation with Reggie Carter and Roquan Smith at the two inside positions. But whoever starts seems largely immaterial. All three are playing and rotating often throughout games.

Patrick is our subject for this week’s “Five Questions With …” feature. So on to the questions. …

1. So what determines who starts and who plays when with the rotation you guys have going at inside linebacker?

Patrick: “For the most part, it’s at (linebackers coach Glenn Schumann’s) leisure, whoever he feels like he wants to put out there at that time. But he says he trusts all three of us. So we know any one of us could get the nod. … Overall I feel like we’re doing a pretty good job balancing everything between the three of us.”

2. What’s the feeling heading out to Columbia, Mo., to face the Missouri Tigers in the SEC opener?

Patrick: “I’m excited. I’m excited to get out there. First game, on the road, in the SEC, so it’s really going to be exciting. Just considering last year, I feel like it’s going to be a war. Pretty much every SEC game is a war. So, saying that, I feel like it’s going to be a tough game.”

3. The Tigers obviously run the spread, play fast and throw the ball around a lot. Do you feel like the North Carolina game prepared you guys for what you’ll see in Columbia?

Patrick: “Yeah, they like to spread it out and air raid it. They’re pretty pass-heavy. I feel confident going into it. … I definitely feel it’s beneficial seeing that we’ll see that hurry-up tempo offense again. We’ve kind of seen it and we kind of know how practice is going to go, so I definitely think it’s going to help us. From what I’ve seen, they’re a lot like North Carolina with that four-receiver spread. I’m pretty sure that’s what we’ll see. I trust my guys and I think we’ll do a good job of it.”

4. How do you feel about the defense’s play overall and that of the inside linebackers?

Patrick: “There’s always something that needs to be done better, but I feel like we’re a defense that plays hard. We run to the ball, we get population on the ball. We can improve our technique, our eye discipline. There’s some technique we can improve on, but, overall, I feel confident we’re always going to play hard.”

5. You guys have forced a couple of fumbles, snatched a couple of interceptions. You have recorded three takeaways and have one defensive touchdown so far. It seems like an aggressive defense overall. Would you say “aggressive” is the personality and style of this group in its first season under defensive coordinator Mel Tucker?

Patrick: “Like the percentages say, defenses that score points and get takeaways are usually the teams that come out with Ws. That’s pretty much what our defense coordinator preaches, that’s what Coach Smart preaches and that’s what we try to go out and do on the field.”

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