Georgia's depth at inside linebacker helping unit stay fresh

Rebecca Wright/The Red & Black

South Carolina running back Rico Dowdle (5) is tackled by Georgia linebacker Natrez Patrick at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina, on Sept. 8.

The name of the game when it comes to inside linebacker is depth.

Georgia’s current depth at the position — Tae Crowder, Natrez Patrick, Monty Rice and Juwan Taylor — illustrates that exact point.

"What’s best is that they all compliment each other,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “Our ability to play all four of them helps keep them fresh.”

Being able to stay energized is a key component to the position’s success in the 2018 season. Rotating players on and off the field allows the players to keep their legs fresh and maintain the strength to play whenever necessary. Patrick, a senior inside linebacker, said it’s especially important in the fourth quarter of games and also against tougher opponents.

Smart said what tends to happen at the linebacker position is athletes play for too long, and they get too tired to compete with the same level of physicality. Having the depth to roll out Crowder, Patrick, Rice and Taylor allows for the unit to continue its success in the game and helps Georgia’s defense.

For the 2018 season, all four have seen quality time on the field. Rice leads the group with 12 total tackles, followed by Taylor with five, Patrick with four and Crowder with four. The constant rotation allows each to see the field and make plays, while also allowing them to compete at their highest ability.

“They are able to go four, five plays and come back in, so you’re able to see max effort,” Smart said.

While the constant rotation would seem to create inconsistency with coming in and out of the game, Patrick said he doesn’t struggle with it. Each member of the committee has played with one another, so when the rotation comes in the game, they are all comfortable playing next to each other. They know their capabilities and those of the linebacker next to them.

“Everybody has their strengths, weaknesses,” Patrick said. “So we just try to play off each other, complement each other.”

Although the unit is deep, it isn’t done growing. Smart said freshmen Channing Tindall and Quay Walker are making headway in learning the defense. Both Tindall and Walker are slightly more explosive and faster, Smart said, and once they are comfortable with the defense and able to come in, they will add more ability and depth to inside linebacker.

But for now, the four-man committee is working out just fine for Georgia.

"The other four know what to do really well," Smart said. "They continue to do well, they put us in the right call."

Printed with permission from The Red & Black independent student media organization, based in Athens, Georgia. For more UGA sports news, visit www.redandblack.com/sports.

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