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.
Monty Rice (@RiceMonty) January 8, 2020
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.
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 13 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.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart defensive coordinator Dan Lanning believe Rice was 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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