Head coach Kirby Smart met with the media ahead of Georgia’s road matchup with Kentucky on Saturday. Smart discussed the possible return of redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Ben Cleveland as well as depth on the defensive line and at linebacker.
Defensive line depth
Georgia’s defensive line has taken a hit with injuries, but now the Bulldogs are looking for ways to make up for it.
Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Netori Johnson began taking reps in practice with the defensive line yesterday to help out along that front. Smart said that junior defensive lineman Michail Carter has been “dinged up” and that they are hopeful to get him back soon.
Other injuries along the defensive line include junior David Marshall (foot) and senior Daquan Hawkins-Muckle (undisclosed).
Georgia’s linebackers have been tested in the last two games against LSU and Florida, and they will face another test in the Wildcats' run game with Kentucky senior running back Benny Snell.
Smart recognized that some of his linebackers haven’t played their best against run, especially with missed tackles. He mentioned specifically that the play of redshirt junior Tae Crowder and senior Natrez Patrick has been “up and down.”
“Natrez gives us everything he has in practice, he leads our team, he's very smart, he understands our defense,” Smart said. “He missed some tackles, but it's not that he doesn’t work at it.”
The play of sophomore linebacker Monty Rice was also mentioned, as Rice had dealt with a knee injury and has recently gotten closer to returning to form.
Smart mentioned that Rice played through the injury and never complained and has turned it on the last two weeks in practice and games.
Availability of Ben Cleveland
Smart discussed the possibility of the return of redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Ben Cleveland for Saturday’s game.
Cleveland has practiced throughout the week but Smart indicated he is still experiencing soreness, mainly since he has been away from practice for as long as he has.
It’s still unsure whether or not Cleveland will officially be available for the game, but Smart indicated that he’ll be in a “supplemental role” rather than in his previous starting spot.