Defending the run will be ever-important against Auburn. Helping Georgia do so will be inside linebacker Natrez Patrick, who is coming off a four-game suspension.
Patrick will play in his first game since Georgia’s win over Tennessee. Patrick was arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana a couple of days before the Bulldogs’ game against Vanderbilt, and missed that game as well as others against Missouri, Florida and South Carolina.
Inside linebacker Reggie Carter said Patrick is ready to return to game action after spending the past few weeks with the scout team.
“He’s hungry,” Carter said. “He’s ready to get back out there.”
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For the season, Patrick has totaled 17 tackles and started each of the five games he appeared in before the suspension.
With Patrick out, that moved Juwan Taylor and Monty Rice into positions for more playing time. When Patrick was first suspended, Carter was also out due to a concussion. Georgia will now have everyone back at the inside linebacker position for Saturday’s game against Auburn.
“It’s going to be huge,” Carter said. “When both of us were out the young guys were doing good. Then I came back and the young guys were still doing good. It’s just great to have everybody back. The young guys have experience under their belt while having a leader on our defense like Natrez back.”
While Patrick was a starter in Georgia’s first five games of the season, it isn’t a guarantee that he will return in that role Saturday. Carter has played well over the past two weeks, which included a stellar performance with seven tackles and half of a sack against South Carolina.
“(Patrick’s) been practicing with us the last couple of weeks,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “He’ll continue to practice with us and that competition will continue to go on.”
Auburn’s proven to be an efficient rushing team this season, averaging 236.7 yards on the ground per game.
Defensive tackle John Atkins said Patrick’s presence will be needed in this department.
“You always want to have a thumper behind you just to make sure you’re good,” Atkins said. “He’s going to make sure the tackle is secure.”