Ten@10: Natrez Patrick remade into inside linebacker

Georgia wasn't exactly sure what it was getting from Natrez Patrick when he arrived on campus in January. Turns out, he's an excellent inside linebacker. (UGA photo by Sean Taylor)

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Georgia wasn’t exactly sure what it was getting from Natrez Patrick when he arrived on campus in January. Turns out, he’s an excellent inside linebacker. (UGA photo by Sean Taylor)


1. When Natrez Patrick showed up on Georgia's campus the first week of January, he carried 255 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame. Corey Jarvis, his coach at Atlanta's Mays High School, figured Patrick would be "about 272 or something" the next time he saw him.

Instead, when Jarvis and members of his staff finally got to visit Patrick during spring practice, they were shocked by what they saw. They found him to be south of 250. Patrick’s body, he said, had been completely remade.

“They’ve slimmed him up and toned him up a more,” Jarvis said. “He lost a little bit of that baby fat. He looked real good when we went over there and got a chance to see him. We could tell the difference immediately.”

2. That was just one of the surprises for Jarvis and his staff. The other was where Patrick is playing. Early in spring practice, Patrick was moved from outside linebacker, where he was recruited to play, to inside linebacker. And he has flourished ever since.

Soon after the move, Patrick created a stir among the players and coaches with his play inside the tackle in practice and in scrimmages. He showed why in the G-Day Game. Patrick led the Red Team with eight tackles with a sack and a tackle for loss.

“He’s got good instincts,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “… He laid the wood to people. He’ll strike. He’s a pretty good athlete, a pretty sharp kid. Again, he’s got a ways to go, but if you’re asking of the group (of early enrollees), he probably made the biggest impression.”

Jarvis was not surprised that Patrick was able to make the adjustment. He’d seen it before.

“Our last two ballgames, out of necessity because we had injuries, we moved him inside to ‘Mike’ in our defense,” Jarvis said. “He’s always been athletic. We always took him to 7-on-7s and let him play linebacker and he made a lot of plays for us.”

3. At this point, it looks like a virtual certainty that Patrick will be a part of the inside linebacker rotation this fall, and there's an outside chance he could end up starting.

“That’s kind of what they’ve been telling us,” Jarvis said of Georgia’s coaches. “They’re excited. They said he did a great job in the spring. They said he looked kind of natural there. He has a great shot of starting if he continues to work hard at it.”

If nothing else, Patrick’s presence answers the Bulldogs’ call for depth at inside linebacker. Juniors Reggie Carter and Tim Kimbrough did nothing to impeach themselves as designated successors to graduated tackle machines Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson. Carter also had eight tackles in the G-Day Game and Kimbrough was named most improved defensive player for the spring.

If the move sticks, Patrick represents a departure from Georgia’s recent tradition at inside linebacker. He’d be the biggest player to play inside linebacker in Richt’s tenure. He’s the same height as Alec Ogletree but still weighs about 10 pounds more.

“His target weight will be less than what we’re seeing right now,” Richt said. “… As we were recruiting him, I don’t know if we really knew what he was going to become. But putting him in that ‘backer spot, he’ll know how to train to get to the right weight.”

4. Speaking of Richt, the Bulldogs' 15th-year head coach continues to garner a tremendous amount of respect nationally. This past Friday, he became the only coach to be appointed to the NCAA's Division I Football Oversight Committee.

The rest of the 12-person committee consists of six athletic directors, four conference commissioners or associate commissioners and a still-to-be-named student-athlete.

According to the NCAA’s website, “the committee will prioritize enhancement of the student-athlete educational experience (academically and athletically), and in doing so, promote student-athletes’ personal growth and leadership development. It will work in conjunction with appropriate governance entities to provide solutions to issues impacting the health and safety of football student-athletes.”

Or, as boiled down by Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, it is “a de facto competition committee,” and “the overarching clearinghouse on all Division I football issues.” The committee’s recommendations will be handed up to the newly-reconstructed NCAA Council.”

Dodd refers to the 55-year-old Richt as “one of the most respected coaches in the game.”

5. Obviously it has been an unusually wet spring in Georgia and that has impacted the Bulldogs' sports. This past weekend, both the baseball and softball teams had to cancel games that won't be made up and the Diamond Dogs have had three games canceled or postponed in the last week.

Interestingly, the football team was able to navigate around all the rain and not miss a single practice this spring. This, while plans continue to construct a $30 million indoor practice facility on campus

“Isn’t that amazing?” Richt laughed. “I don’t know what happened, man.”

Though final determinations will need Board of Regents approval, all indications are the new IPF will be built on the area currently housing the Hoke Smith Annex building on South Campus next to the Coliseum and across Smith Street from the current artificial-grass fields. It’s likely it would not be completed before the 2016 football season.

Richt was asked how he envisions utilizing the facility.

“Well, rainy days or lightning,” he said. “Or a lot of times in our offseason we had a lot of a.m. runs and I can’t tell you how many times we were out there running in 28 degree weather. We had more nasty weather during that time than we did spring football itself. Also, a lot of people feel like in season or in camp when you have super hot days that ever so often it’s not a bad thing to get a practice in the cooler climate, inside.”

6. Normally the problem for whomever happens to be coaching Georgia's baseball team is the incredibly stout competition the Bulldogs perennially encounter in the SEC. But that's only half the problem current coach Scott Stricklin.

The second-year skipper has struggled on the home front as much as he has in the league. Of the six in-state teams Georgia has faced during Stricklin’s tenure, the Bulldogs have a winning record against just one. That’s their 1-0 mark against Savannah State.

Otherwise, Georgia is 1-5 against Georgia Southern, 1-3 vs. Georgia Tech, 1-3 against Kennesaw State, 0-2 against Mercer and 1-1 vs. Georgia State.

7. Granted, Stricklin's situation hasn't been helped by pitching injuries. The Bulldogs have been without slated SEC-starters Robert Tyler and David Sosebee almost the entire season due to injuries.

Georgia (20-20, 6-11 SEC) is getting close to full strength as it prepares to host Clemson (22-18) Tuesday night at Foley Field. Sosebee returned to pitch 2.2 innings of relief against No. 2 LSU this past weekend. He allowed four hits but gave up only one run and had two strikeouts.

The Bulldogs were hopeful that Tyler, the staff ace, might return this past weekend but he did not. Word is he might try to come back this weekend against Auburn.

In any case, Georgia needs get busy winning soon or it could be in danger of missing the 12-team SEC tournament. Losers of 10 of its last 12, only fellow Eastern Division member Tennessee (15-20, 5-13) has a worse record than the Bulldogs in the SEC. Mississippi State (22-18) has the same conference record (6-11) in the West.

8. Joni Crenshaw has encountered some Twitter traction since being appointed Georgia's new women's basketball coach last week.

UGA used the hashtag #JoniOnMyMind for folks to send congratulatory messages to her on her Twitter account, @JoniCrenshaw. Among those to partake of the trend were former Georgia football players Jarvis Jones and Robert Edwards (he’s married to former player Tracy Henderson).

Another former player is Latrese Bush, who played at Georgia from 1994-98 and was a member of the 1996 NCAA runner-up team, the 1995 Final Four squad and the 1996 and 1997 SEC championship teams. She is now a back-up singer for Gloria Gaynor.

All told, Crenshaw’s Twitter followers have doubled in the last week, 1,015 to 2,236.

9. Congratulations to former UGA women's golf head coach (and letterman) Kelley Hester and recently being named the Southern Conference's coach of the year. Hester led Furman to the conference championship this year and the Lady Paladins will represent the league in the NCAA regionals.

As for Georgia’s team, it remains to be seen if it will get into the field. The Lady Bulldogs are on the proverbial bubble.

Seventy-two teams qualify for regionals (four of 18 teams each) and UGA, coming off a 10th-place finish in the SEC tournament, is currently ranked 65th by Golfstat’s computer rankings.

It will be a tough call. The Lady Dogs were playing well before the SECs.  Over the past month, they finished second in the Liz Murphey and won a tournament at Seton Hall. But they played terribly early in the spring.

We’ll find out their fate soon enough. The selection show is next Monday night at 7 p.m. on the Golf Channel.

Meanwhile, help is on the way. The Bulldogs signed three of the top-15 junior players in the class of 2015: No. 5 Bailey Tardy, No. 7 Jillian Hollis and No. 15 Rinko Mitsunaga.

10. This & that: No. 3 South Carolina upset top-ranked Georgia 10-6 late Saturday to win the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA). The Bulldogs were defending national champions.