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Tony Walsh / UGA Sports
Monty Rice is expected to be one of the top players on Georgia's defense.

Position Plus/Minus: Taking a deeper look at the Georgia football inside linebacker position

Every Tuesday, we’re going to take a deep dive on every Georgia position in the run-up to the 2020 season. Georgia figures to have one of the most talented teams in the country and the Bulldogs have a number of talented players across the board. But there are still some questions that have to be answered if the Bulldogs are to achieve their end goals.

This week we take a look at the inside linebackers.

Plus: Senior leader Monty Rice

Georgia always knew it was going to be without Tae Crowder in 2020, as 2019 was his final season in a Georgia uniform. But the Bulldogs got a boost when Monty Rice announced in January that he would be returning for his senior season and also third as a starter for the Bulldogs.

Rice is one of the best linebackers in the conference, as he racked up 89 tackles in 2019 and Second-Team All-SEC honors. Heading into his senior season, Rice will be asked to be more of a vocal leader for the Georgia defense, but given all of his experience and past reps at the position, that shouldn’t be a problem from the senior from Huntsville, Ala.

Related: Georgia football defense stock report: Buy in now

Along with safety Richard LeCounte, Rice is one of the most experienced players on the entire team. And that should really help out whoever steps in for Crowder at the other inside linebacker spot.

Plus: More Nakobe Dean

With Crowder now a member of the New York Giants, Georgia is going to have the replace one of the two starters at the position. But the Bulldogs have plenty of talented options. Though one seems to stand out above the others, as sophomore Nakobe Dean has generated a ton of offseason buzz.

RelatedESPN analyst tabs linebacker Nakobe Dean as one of the conference’s breakout defensive players

Dean signed with Georgia as a 5-star prospect out of Horn Lake, Miss., in the 2019 signing class. He went on to impress early last fall, but an ankle injury in August slowed the start to his freshman campaign. He eventually got healthy and became a key member of Georgia’s third-down defense.

As a freshman, Dean racked up 25 tackles for the Bulldogs. Expect that number to be much higher this season if he gets more snaps. Dean has often been compared to former Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith. While those comparisons haven’t always been fair to Dean, the now-sophomore is farther along than Smith was at the same point in his storied career.

And if Dean validates some of the offseason praise he’s gotten, expect the Smith comparisons to continue to grow.

Minus: No fresh talent

Georgia didn’t sign a single prospect in the 2020 recruiting cycle that will line-up at inside linebacker this season. The only linebacker prospect the Bulldogs added was Mekahail Sherman, who will play outside linebacker.

But if there’s a position that is able to weather some of the concerns that come with no new recruits, it’s the inside linebacker spot. In addition to Rice and Dean, Georgia brings back Quay Walker, who played a bunch last year and racked up 23 tackles.

There’s also junior Channing Tindall who likely pick up some of the snaps with Crowder gone as well. Nate McBride is also a senior and one of Georgia’s top special teams players as well.

Georgia did also sign three inside linebackers as a part of the 2019 recruiting class. In addition to Dean, coaches are excited about the futures of Trezmen Marshall and Rian Davis. Marshall emerged as a key member on special teams, while Davis spent much of his freshman season recovering from a variety of injuries.

The Bulldogs are aiming to once again sign multiple inside linebacker prospects in the 2021 recruiting class, such as Smael Mondon and Xavian Sorey. So while this might be an issue this year, linebacker depth does not figure to be a long-term issue for the Bulldogs.

Related: Georgia football ‘LBU’ hype video the latest public push to appeal to linebacker recruits

Plus: Another year with Glenn Schumann

Schumann is the longest-tenured defensive member of Georgia’s staff, as he came over from Alabama with Smart. He’s been the inside linebackers coach every year at Georgia and in 2019 he added the title of co-defensive coordinator.

In his first year in the role, along with new defensive coordinator Dan Lanning, Georgia had the nation’s top-scoring defense and rushing defense. With many of those pieces back in 2020, there is the opportunity for an even higher ceiling. Though to achieve that Georgia will need to create more negative plays and turnovers.

Players and recruits have spoken very highly of Schumann, with Rice calling him the smartest coach on the staff. Having him around, as he continues to become one of the up-and-coming stars in the coaching profession.

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