ATHENS — Georgia middle linebacker Monty Rice has made the decision to return to Athens for his senior season, bypassing the 2020 NFL Draft.
Rice announced his return with a tweet.
— ⁶Monty Rice (@RiceMonty) January 8, 2020
Rice joins rising defensive stars Richard LeCounte, Eric Stokes and Malik Herring in his decision to return for the 2020 season.
Georgia has had four underclassmen declare early for the 2020 NFL Draft — all on offense — running back D’Andre Swift, offensive tackles Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson and offensive guard Solomon Kindley.
Georgia is still waiting to learn of Jake Fromm’s plans for the 2020 season. Fromm met with head coach Kirby Smart to discuss his future on Monday.
Rice was a second-team All-SEC pick by the Associated Press and the co-winner of the Vince Dooley Defensive MVP award given at the UGA gala. He was the team’s leading tackler with 89 stops this season, including five in the Bulldogs’ 26-14 Sugar Bowl win over Baylor.
Rice, a 6-foot-1, 235-pounder, was at the heart of a Bulldogs’ defense that led the SEC in total defense, scoring defense and rushing defense this season. Georgia also ranks No. 8 in the nation in pass efficiency defense.
The Huntsville, Ala., product was the SEC Defensive Player of the Week after making 10 tackles in Georgia’s 21-14 win at Auburn. Rice started and played in all 14 games for the Bulldogs.
Rice went through an injury-riddle sophomore campaign in 2018, starting in five of the nine games he played. He suffered what amounted to a season-ending foot injury during warmups before a win over UMass.
Rice had overcome a sprained knee earlier in his sophomore season.
Smart defensive coordinator Dan Lanning believes Rice is a catalyst to team intensity.
“Monty gives us a tough, physical presence,” Smart said last season.
“He’s a smart guy, really intelligent and he’s a heavy hitter,” Lanning said. “When he puts his pads on, I think guys feel it.”
Underclassmen have until Jan. 20 to declare themselves eligible for the NFL draft. A list of underclassmen approved for entry will be sent to NFL teams on Jan. 24.
The NFL draft evaluation process includes the East-West Shrine Game (select players Jan. 18, St. Petersburg, Fla.) and the Senior Bowl (select players, Jan. 25, Mobile, Ala.).
The NFL combine takes place Feb. 24-March 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The University of Georgia will also hold a “Pro Day” combine in March, typically the week leading up to the start of spring drills.
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