LOS ANGELES – With Natrez Patrick out of Georgia’s linebacker corps for the College Football Playoff, a group self-described as “family” is set to get extended minutes Monday.
Patrick, a junior from Atlanta, entered a drug treatment program after he was arrested following a traffic stop hours after the SEC Championship game Dec. 2 and tested positive twice for drugs in a short span.
Misdemeanor drug charges on marijuana were dropped, but it was his third drug-related arrest during his time at Georgia.
With the loss of Patrick, who’s sixth on the team with 35 tackles in just nine games, Juwan Taylor and Monty Rice are among a group expected to step up when Georgia faces Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl.
The freshman Rice has 22 tackles in 12 games, including a start, while the junior Taylor has recorded 13 stops in 13 games.
Taylor sees the linebacker group as tight-knit and they push each other, which could be a positive when they face the challenge of Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield-led offense.
“It’s like family,” Taylor said. “We look at each other like we’re all brothers. We bled, sweat, everything through off-season workouts. When adversity hits, that’s what pushes us.”
The presence of stars Roquan Smith, Lorenzo and Reggie Carter, and Davin Bellamy also offers the advantage of easing Rice and Taylor into the game. Georgia’s deep defensive front has helped limit the opposition to 13.2 points per game en route to a playoff appearance.
“Me and (Taylor) are a team,” Rice said. “We all work hard. (Tae) Crowder, Taylor, they go fast, so I could see us playing. They can come in and give good minutes. And Reggie and Roquan are two of the best linebackers to learn from.”
The group plans to keep it simple in terms of approaching the game. Rice said he’s not surprised they’ve reached this point after working hard to get to Pasadena, and Lorenzo Carter is sticking to Georgia’s brand of defense against Mayfield.
“We don’t even really worry about that much stuff,” Carter said. “We’re going out there to play our brand of football, and our brand of football is to stop the opposing players, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Despite keeping things simple, Taylor said he realizes the importance of playing in such a unique event, perhaps even more so with the chance for more time on the field.
“This experience, the Rose Bowl, man, it’s mind-blowing,” Taylor said. “This is a true blessing.”