ATHENS — Georgia team captain and three-year starter at middle linebacker Monty Rice was selected by the Tennessee Titans with the 92nd overall pick of the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft on Friday night.
Rice has anchored the No. 1-ranked run defense in the nation the past two seasons, known for his high football IQ and ability to ensure gap integrity with his calls and commitment to stop the run.
“Here’s one thing you know about him playing in Kirby Smart’s scheme, he is a smart linebacker,” former NFL player and ESPN commentator Louis Riddick said. “He has to make calls, and the one thing he does is see ball, hit ball, come downhill not afraid to mix it up inside.”
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The past season saw Rice improve his skills in pass coverage, using his 4.57-second speed in the 40 to shadow backs and handle tight ends in the open field. In addition to his toughness, Rice is known for his open-field tackling ability with ball carriers rarely slipping past him or breaking loose of his grip. Indeed, PFF rated Rice as the SEC’s surest tackler during the 2019 season.
Coach Kirby Smart identified the 6-foot-1, 235-pound Rice as a team leader early in his career coming out of James Clemens High School in Huntsville, Ala.
“He pushed through injuries this year, and I’ve never had a guy who practiced as hard as Monty does,” Smart said. “It hurt him that he couldn’t practice every day this year.”
Rice attended the Senior Bowl but held himself out of drill work, determined to get back to 100 percent for Pro Day.
UGA defensive coordinator Dan Lanning noted Rice’s mere presence makes a difference.
“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.”
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