ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart continues to invest in Monty Rice as a team leader.
It’s an indication of just how good of an offseason the junior linebacker has had, and how much Smart believes in him.
UGA announced last week that Rice was one of five Georgia student-athletes chosen to take part in a joint meeting of SEC student-athlete leadership councils at the Student-Athlete Advisor Committee (SAAC) in Birmingham.
Smart has stressed leadership in what has become a somewhat turbulent offseason. The team most recently lost leading returning receiver Jeremiah Holloman to dismissal.
Senior safety J.R. Reed, who recently spoke on behalf of the team during the Bulldogs’ visit to cancer-stricken youth, said the team has bonded closer together.
“Everything has been going great, we had a leadership retreat, I know some people saw that, where we came together as a group (in Florida,” Reed said at Camp Sunshine on Wednesday. “Honestly we’re bonding together more and more each day as a team, and becoming more of a brotherhood.”
Rice, who was on pace to lead Georgia in tackles last season before being sidelined by a sprained knee and then injured foot, was among the players at the leadership retreat in Florida.
“Monty gives us a tough, physical presence,” Kirby Smart said last season.
Dan Lanning, the Bulldogs’ new defensive coordinator, echoed those sentiments in the days leading up to the Sugar Bowl.
“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.”
Georgia’s defense was at its best with Rice on the field last season, and his inclusion on the leadership trip indicates Smart is betting on him to lead the way again.
The other UGA athletes part of the leadership trip to Birmingham: Hayden Merrick (track and field), Ryan Peppenhourst (cross country), Ari Henderson (women’s basketball) and Rayshaun Hammonds (men’s basketball).
The UGA release states 68 SEC student-athletes were scheduled to participate.