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Jeff Sentell / AJC
LSU commit Monty Rice thought he was going to Georgia for the longest time.

Why former UGA silent commitment Monty Rice chose LSU

MADISON, Ala. — Monty Rice was a silent commitment to Georgia. He loved the relationships he forged with the staff in Athens.

He still loves the way the Bulldogs recruited him. The 6-foot-1, 227-pound ILB prospect told his head coach at James Clemens High School in the wee hours Monday morning that he knew he could trust coach Kirby Smart and assistant coach Glenn Schumann.

But he chose LSU at a school recognition ceremony on Monday.

Let’s just chalk this up as another example to convey silent commitments are sometimes like that Elf on the Shelf. We should expect a lot of movement from those guys.

Rice is rated as the nation's No. 21 ILB for the Class of 2017. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Rice is rated as the nation’s No. 21 ILB for the Class of 2017. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

The nation’s No. 21 ILB said he arrived at the decision in the wee hours of the morning on Monday.

The UGA staff did not know. His official visit went well.

Everything continued to trend toward Athens.

“I committed to Georgia silently back in like August or September,” Rice said.

How did the Tigers snatch away a prospect that would’ve been Smart’s first big pull from the state he recruited so well as the Alabama defensive coordinator?

Rice supplied his answer: LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.

Aranda was the coach he liked best. If Aranda had not been retained by LSU, he was likely going to Georgia.

“I just went with my heart,” Rice said. “I just went with what felt best. Coach Aranda is just an awesome dude.”

The Bulldogs didn’t find out until James Clemens head coach Wade Waldrop texted a staffer the term “LSU” when Rice shared his decision at a school ceremony on Monday.

“I just thought real hard about it,” Rice said. “I went where my heart kept coming back to.”

Rice led James Clemens in tackles this year but also scored four touchdowns. (Chris Kirschner / AJC)
Rice led James Clemens in tackles this year but also scored four touchdowns. (Chris Kirschner / AJC)

The nation’s No. 21 ILB said there was one program that came at him harder than he liked but declined to name that program.

That was on Sunday. It was after he returned from his official visit to Georgia.

Rice and others said he was burnt out by then. Aranda was receptive to that and went into chill mode. That helped to reinforce his feelings about LSU.

Contrast that move with the way another program blitzed at Rice.

Aranda flew to North Alabama and sat at the airport for six-plus hours. He would be there if Rice said he wanted to meet one final time, but he’d hang back if he did not.

Aranda was ready to pounce for one last talk. But he secured Rice’s commitment by deciding it was best not to.

That’s the life of a recruiter with a priority prospect. Rice will supply some sharp teeth at linebacker for LSU’s defense. He led James Clemens in tackles last season but showed he was more than a run stuffer by also scoring four touchdowns in a variety of ways.

Rice said Duke Riley hosted him at LSU. Tyler Simmons hosted him for Georgia. He used the term “awesome” to describe both visits.

“I ate a lot of steaks,” Rice said.

The Facebook Live interview with Rice follows below. The 18-minute session opens with the ceremony and then goes to a pool interview with other reporters after the school recognition ceremony drew to a close.

The interview begins at the 10:40 time stamp of the broadcast.


The way to draw an offer at a camp

Rice flew by himself to LSU for his official visit earlier this week. That’s interesting. He also took a similar trip to Baton Rogue in July that stunned the LSU staff.

“I still think it was the hottest day every on this Earth,” Rice said. “Real burning hot day.”

Rice hopped out of a car after driving seven hours, did some slight stretching and camped like every coach wished the 5-stars would. He went from the car to drills in less than 15 minutes.

Rice wasn’t messing around.

He caught every rep. Jumped ahead of others. He treated it like a football game. Aranda was smitten with Rice from that point on.

So was former coach Les Miles. He offered Rice on the spot.

“Coach Miles said he had to offer him a scholarship after the way he competed in every drill around all the other prima donnas,” James Clemens coach Wade Waldrop said. “He said that he’s the type of guy their program was built for.”

The Tigers backed off a bit during the season, but Aranda was back on the first Monday that coaches were allowed to go back on the road.

“He was like ‘I’m here and I want you and you’re on the top of my board because you can really play’ when he came on that first Monday to see Monty,” Waldrop said.

Let’s be clear here. The feeling at James Clemens wasn’t that LSU out-recruited Georgia for Rice. That wasn’t the case. The Bulldogs made him a priority the entire time.

It was just a gut feeling. Rice rolled off the names of a lot of coaches at every staff he could trust. He just went with the coach he liked the best (Aranda at LSU) in the end.

Another commitment watch day 

DawgNation should have their ears perked up around 6 p.m. this evening. That’s when the another school ceremony should commence at Westside High in Indiana.

That’s where 3-star junior college defensive back Lonnie Johnson Jr. will make his college commitment. Johnson will enroll in January. He just came back from his official visit to Georgia.

There was a flurry of late activity between him and UGA before the dead period on Monday. Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker flew up to see the nation’s No. 4 safety less than two weeks ago.

The Bulldogs offered Johnson shortly thereafter and he scheduled and took his official visit. His trip to Athens was his last official visit.

He’s set to announce his decision from Westside High (Gary, Ind.) today.

There will likely be hats from Georgia, Kentucky and West Virginia on the table. Henderson committed to Ohio State in high school but then academic issues led him to Garden City Community College in Kansas.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder told DawgNation last week that the coaches at UGA like his size and length. He’s expected to contribute right away.

Did you miss anything yesterday?

There was a flurry of activity on the Bulldog recruiting beat yesterday. Here’s a quick catch-up.

— Prized OT prospect Isaiah Wilson moves up his decision date

— Breaking: UGA gets a commitment from JUCO tackle D’Marcus Hayes

— What is Georgia getting in D’Marcus Hayes? 

— What is the latest with 5-star QB Trevor Lawrence? 



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