Georgia Bulldogs Tackling Machine, The Rise of Monty Rice

Brooks Austin

Monty Rice grew up in Huntsville, Alabama with aspirations of one day playing for the Crimson Tide. Nineteen division one scholarship offers arrived on Rice's doorstep just two hours from Tuscaloosa, yet Alabama was not in that list of schools. 

Rice talked about not receiving love from his dream school, "It is what it is. They recruit the best players, and I wasn't the best to them." And with a chip on his shoulder, Rice was set to face Saban and company annually as a commit to the LSU Tigers. 

Then, on January 2, 2017, Monty Rice flipped his commitment from LSU to Georgia and enrolled just three days later. Now, he leads one of the nation's best defenses as a junior linebacker for the Bulldogs. 

As a freshman, Rice fought for playing time behind future Top-10 pick, Roquan Smith. Then as a sophomore, he went into the week 11 matchup with UMASS as Georgia's leading tackler. His season ended in pregame warmups that day on a freakish non-contact injury to his left foot. 

In just nine games in 2018, Rice's 59.0 tackles were third-most for the Bulldogs. Pro football focus ranked Rice as the surest tackler in the SEC last season. 

Though Rice didn't exactly receive the same love this preseason. There were 10 linebackers chosen for the 2019 Preseason Coaches All-SEC Team, with Rice being left out. 

He's gone on to prove the doubters wrong all season as he's the leading tackler on Georgia's top-ranked defense and even has received a bit of NFL love. 

His 66.0 tackles may not seem like a staggering number to the casual passerby, especially when you consider the current FBS leader Evan Weaver has 151.0 for Cal this season, but Rice doesn't play on third and longs. 

Five Star freshman Nakobe Dean is simply too good to not put on the field, so on third and longs Dean is inserted - along with six DBs - into the lineup.

Rice leading the team in tackles despite only playing about 65% of the snaps, proves he has an out of this world nose for the football. 

Not to mention the fact that despite the outlier that was the Auburn game, this Georgia defense isn't on the field very often. Georgia's opponents have averaged 64.6 plays per game, that's 19th in the country. 

Hindsight is 20/20, and for every Monty Rice that Nick Saban has failed to offer there's a Dylan Moses or a Rueben Foster, but I'd imagine he'd go back and take another look at Rice's film. 

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