Natrez Patrick was lined up for a drill against his fellow inside linebacker counterpart Roquan Smith, and the rep didn’t go as planned for Patrick.
Glenn Schumann was right there to give him an earful which was laden with advice on how to improve. For Patrick, a junior who is expected to play a key role this season with Smith, has appreciation for that active coaching style.
“I love it,” Patrick said. “Schumann is a great teacher, and there’s not too much that we don’t know. As of now, all of the linebackers are really getting to know their defense and that’s a big ups to coach Schumann. He doesn’t let us miss anything and the expectations are always high. There are no lackadaisical days. An off day is not acceptable; it’s only the best standard.”
The second-year inside linebackers coach is the youngest on-field assistant for the Bulldogs at 26 years old. After Kirby Smart took the Georgia head coaching job in December 2015, Schumann was the first guy he hired for an on-field role. Schumann was with Smart at Alabama, most recently as the director of player development from 2014-15.
Schumann was gifted with a talented inside linebacker corps with Patrick and Smith already with the program as the group’s centerpieces – joining in the final season of Mike Ekeler’s tenure. In addition, Georgia has added the talents of four-star Nate McBride (Patrick’s roommate during preseason camp and four-star Monty Rice.
With the depth, what is expected from the defense?
“Domination, nothing less, honestly,” Patrick said. “It’s an older group and we’ve had a year under coach Smart and (Georgia defensive coordinator Mel) Tucker’s scheme. It’s a bunch of mature guys, and we expect nothing less.”
The group joins a defense that returned 10 starters and looks to be formidable. A season ago, the Bulldogs’ scoring defense ranked 35th in the nation – allowing 24 points per game. Patrick indicated that red-zone defense is a major priority in order to better those numbers.
Patrick only played 10 games in 2016 due to a shoulder injury suffered in the Kentucky game, but had the best season of his two-year collegiate tenure with 59 total tackles. The 234-pound linebacker has been working to balance his weight while refining his skill set. Entering last fall, Patrick weighed in at 228 pounds – a 20-pound decrease from where he stood during that spring.
“I’m about the same where I was last year,” Patrick said. “Now I’m just trying to get in the best condition I can be.”
As a unit, Georgia’s defense had blunders during spring practice, and Patrick was vocal on its lack of success in April as he said the offense was “hungrier” than the defense. With another session of practice underway, Patrick has seen more improvements from his group.
“It has been really competitive,” Patrick said. “We’re putting an emphasis on rushing better. I’m just working my hands, rushing more and just getting down inside. I can perfect my craft and getting my hand down and learn from those guys.”
The leaders of Georgia’s defense are said to be Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter, two of a few starting seniors after they opted to forgo the NFL draft. However, Patrick has brought along his own leadership quality.
“As inside linebacker, so he has to be a leader by default,” Bellamy said. “Natrez leads by example. He gives his all every day and he would run through a wall for you. Younger guys watch that, and even older guys like me watch that. You love to have a guy like that next to you, and he’s natural.”