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Georgia’s Monty Rice: Linebacker with a cause
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Georgia’s Monty Rice: Linebacker with a cause

Georgia’s Monty Rice: Linebacker with a cause

Georgia’s Monty Rice: Linebacker with a cause

UGA football-Georgia Bulldogs-Monty Rice-2018 spring practice

ATHENS — Really, we don’t know all that much about Georgia’s Monty Rice. But you have to like what the sophomore linebacker has to say about the enormous challenge that’s before him and the Bulldogs’ entire defense in succeeding Roquan Smith and that star-studded unit of a season ago.

“We can’t live off what Roquan did, or Lorenzo [Carter] did, or Dom Sanders did,” said Rice, who is poised to follow Smith at the Will inside linebacker position. “What’s Juwan Taylor gonna do? What’s Nate McBride gonna do? What’s Monty Rice gonna do? We’ve got to live off what we’re going to do. We can’t dwell on last year’s success.”

Monty Rice

Truer words have not been spoken this spring about Georgia’s defense. The Bulldogs lost a boatload of exceptional football talent off last season’s 13-2, No. 2-ranked team. That fact will be underscored in the NFL draft next week.

Most notable among those departures is Smith. The Butkus Award-winning linebacker is expected to be an early first-round draft choice. The battle to replace him is ongoing. But the odds-on favorite to handle that considerable task is Rice, who is really kind of a mystery man.

If you don’t follow recruiting closely, you might need a refresher. Rice sort of just showed up at Georgia. Rivals and 247Sports pegged him as a 3-star recruit, but his offer list said otherwise. He had upwards of 20 offers, including pretty much the whole of the SEC.

Rice actually committed to LSU (over Auburn and Georgia) in mid-December 2016. It’s something he now says was an act of confused desperation. But, as an early enrollee, he’d long been pursued by Mel Tucker, first at Alabama and then as defensive coordinator at Georgia.

In the end, Rice pursued that relationship and simply enrolled at UGA without signing a letter of intent, according to his high school coach.

“When he announced that day that he was going to go to LSU, me and everyone else going in thought it was going to be Georgia, just because of his relationship with Coach Tucker and Coach [Kirby] Smart,” said Wade Waldrop, Rice’s coach at James Clemens High School in Madison, Ala. “They already knew him, because he had visited Alabama a number of times throughout his sophomore and junior years, so they were familiar with him.

“He came out right away and said, ‘I think I made a mistake.’ I said, ‘That’s all right. You haven’t signed a thing. As long as you let Coach [Dave] Aranda and Coach O [LSU coach Ed Oregeron] know, you do what’s best for you. You’ve got to wake up in that dorm room every day.’ ”

Said Rice: “I just followed my heart.”

Rice’s arrival in Athens in January 2017 has been a blessing both for the Bulldogs and for Rice. As a freshman last season he played in 14 of Georgia’s 15 games and even got a start against Missouri in the season’s seventh game. He finished with 22 tackles and 2 tackles for loss.

The one start came at Mike linebacker alongside Smith after Natrez Patrick was suspended and Reggie Carter was injured. But he primarily as a Will — or weakside linebacker — which happened to be the position manned by Smith. So it was difficult to get on the field much with the defense. His work came mostly at “garbage time” and on special teams.

But Rice said last season’s experience was invaluable to him, if for no other reason than getting to know Smith and watching how he worked.

“Roquan is not a selfish person,” Rice said. “He was helping me out when I first got here, telling me what calls I had to make, telling me what to do or whatever. So he was real helpful. So was Lorenzo and Davin [Bellamy] and all of those guys.”

As for motivation, Rice doesn’t need a lot of help in that department. This is a young man who has had his sights set not only on major college football but the NFL for a long time.

That’s what distinguished Rice at James Clemens High. Originally from Huntsville, Ala., he actually lived with another family in Madison while playing there.

The reason for that was two-fold. One, he wanted to play high school football at the highest level possible; and, two, he needed to escape the crime and poverty that ravaged the community in which he was raised.

That ended up being a move made in heaven. Not only was Rice wildly successful as a player — he recorded 137 tackles, 4 interceptions and 4 touchdowns to lead the Jets to the Class 7A quarterfinals as a senior — but also as a student.

“Monty Rice is a football player,” Waldrop said. “He came to school every day — and he had a 3.2, 3.1 GPA — and he did well in school because he wanted to play football. Everything he does is to play football. A lot of people, it’s the other way around. He did what he had to do on a daily basis to be a big-time football player. You didn’t have to hold things over his head to get him to do something. He loves playing football.”

It’s not all about money and fame for Rice, either. He hopes football can give him a platform to call attention to a cause that is very personal to him: excessive force used by police, particularly against victims suffering from mental illness.

You can read about it yourself from the pinned tweet at the top of Rice’s Twitter account, @RiceMonty. It takes you to a Facebook page dedicated to telling the story of Horaesheo Rice, a cousin eight years Rice’s senior who was killed by police gunfire on Sept. 20, 2017. That was the Wednesday before the Bulldogs would play Mississippi State in Sanford Stadium.

Rice has his cousin’s name tattooed on his right forearm as a reminder of what he’s playing for.

“I know he’s looking down and smiling about what I’m doing,” Rice said Thursday night after Georgia’s 13th practice of the spring. “We used to live together, so I was real close to him. I’m not a big social media guy, but I don’t want his name to ever be forgotten. I don’t want what happened to be, ah, this is just another killer. I want it to be known what happened to my cousin.”

So, yes, Rice is supremely motivated. And apparently he’s a pretty good player, too.

At this point there’s still no guarantees that Rice will be the undisputed starter and/or primary player at Georgia’s all-important Will linebacker spot. Among others, he’s competing with senior Juwan Taylor and fellow sophomore Nate McBride, not to mention two freshmen who will join the team in June. But indications are that No. 32 has been making a name for himself at that spot during spring practice.

“He’s pretty difficult,” sophomore tackle Andrew Thomas said of trying to block Rice. “He has one speed. He’s, like, full-going all the time and he’s going to hit you. He doesn’t care if you’re bigger than him, he’s going to strike you and try to make a play. He’s making us all better.”

That this one-time 3-star prospect is in position to become a full-time starter at a marquee position in his sophomore year may come as a surprise to a lot of people. But not to those in Madison and Huntsville who have known Rice for a while.

“I’m absolutely not surprised, because he’s driven,” said Waldrop, who visited with Rice shortly before spring practice began. “He has a purpose. The purpose of just trying to start is probably big for him. He’s got NFL aspirations. He knows if he does the things that Coach Smart and Coach [Glenn] Schumann and those guys tell him to do and he buys into it, he knows he’ll have a shot to one day go get money.”

And perhaps draw greater attention to a cause that is dear to him. We’ll have to wait and see how it goes on the football field, but for now we have an idea of what Monty Rice is all about.

The post Georgia’s Monty Rice: Linebacker with a cause appeared first on DawgNation.

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Local News

  • A University of Georgia student was killed overnight while driving his car on I-20 just west of Atlanta. The Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office identified the victim as 20-year-old William Whitaker, of Carrollton. Whitaker was driving in the westbound lanes on I-20 when a tractor trailer crashed with two cars in the eastbound lanes. Debris from the wreck was sent into the westbound lanes, striking two vehicles, including the car driven by Whitaker,  who died on the scene.  The driver of the truck has been identified as Mario Polier, 53, of Hialeah, FL. He now faces numerous misdemeanor charges including second degree homicide by vehicle  
  • It's a mild start to Friday but big changes are coming this weekend.  Most people are experiencing fog and light rain this morning. A Dense Fog Advisory has been issued for most of north Georgia until 10 a.m. Some areas have visibility of less than a quarter mile. Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Brian Monahan said that on Saturday, we have a chance to see rain, storms and the coldest temperatures this year. 'As we head through the next 24 hours or so, we've got rain moving into north Georgia, we've got a chance for storms moving into north Georgia and then the coldest air of the season moving in,' Monahan said.
  • Athens-Clarke County Commissioners meet for a rare Friday afternoon work session: they say fair housing is the topic of talk in the session that starts at 1 o’clock at the Government Building on Dougherty Street.  The city School Board in Jefferson signs off on the purchase of a new emergency alert system, one that will be used on all four Jefferson schools. The price tag is $165,000.  There is a new City Administrator in Statham: Statham’s Mayor and City Council has signed off on the hiring of Mai Chang. Chang worked previously as City Clerk in Statham. She takes over for former City Administrator Michelle Irizarry. 
  • Deangelo Gibbs’ time in Athens has been up since December, when Georgia coach Kirby Smart said the defensive back was no longer with the team prior to the Sugar Bowl. And now it seems that he will be taking his talents to another SEC East program.  DawgNation can confirm that Gibbs is enrolled at Tennessee and will move to the other side of the ball and play wide receiver for the Vols. The news was first reported by 247Sports’ Grant Ramey. Gibbs was a major recruit coming out of Grayson High School, as he was rated as the No. 49 overall player in the 247Sports Composite. But he struggled to find playing time at Georgia and he was away from the team last spring as well.  Gibbs has a cousin on Tennessee’s team in safety Nigel Warrior. Another one of Gibbs’ cousins is J.R. Reed, who has become a standout safety for the Bulldogs since transferring from Tulsa. Reed made the decision to return to Athens for his senior season, bolstering what should be a strong secondary, even without Gibbs.  Gibbs had reportedly put his name in the transfer portal, as did Georgia safety Tray Bishop. In Georgia’s 2019 recruiting class, the Bulldogs brought in 4-star safety Lewis Cine, who is rated as the No. 61 player in the class.  Tennessee is coached by Jeremy Pruitt, who was the Georgia defensive coordinator from 2014-15.  Georgia visits Tennessee on Oct. 5. The Bulldogs beat Tennessee 38-12 in Athens last fall.
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Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — Georgia sacks leader D’Andre Walker has pulled out of the Senior Bowl, not yet ready to compete on account of what has become a nagging groin injury. Walker has been projected as a third-round NFL Draft pick, but the Senior Bowl offered him an opportunity to improve his draft stock competing against top talent in the annual all-star event. The Bulldogs will be represented by defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter and long snapper Nick Moore. Practices and drills begin on Tuesday before the watchful eyes of hundreds of NFL coaches, scouts and general managers. Unfortunately, I won’t be attending the Senior Bowl. I will be getting a second opinion on my groin this week to ensure I’ll be ready for the combine. I am very disappointed because it’s such a great opportunity to showcase my talent. — D’Andre Walker (@DAndreWalker15) January 21, 2019 Walker was injured early in the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship Game against Alabama with Georgia leading 28-21. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior from Fairburn, Ga., was enjoying an MVP performance against the Tide before suffering the injury. Walker had five tackles, two TFLs, two QB hurries a forced fumble and a deflected pass in three quarters, wreaking havoc in the Alabama backfield. Georgia’s backup outside linebackers weren’t able to have the same sort of success. The Bulldogs young outside linebackers lost contain on crucial plays and allowed Jalen Hurts to buy time and make game-winning plays in Alabama’s 35-28 win. Walker practiced on a limited basis and dressed out for the Sugar Bowl, but he declined to play. Bulldogs’ cornerback Deandre Baker also had an invitation to test himself against the nation’s best in the Senior Bowl, but Baker declined his invitation. Baker also skipped the Sugar Bowl, which, coupled with injuries to Walker and Freshman All-American defensive tackle Jordan Davis, severely hampered the Georgia defense in the 28-21 loss to Texas. The post Georgia football OLB D’Andre Walker uncertain of health, pulls out of Senior Bowl appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — If “Genius is patience,” as Isaac Newton once suggested, Georgia football coach Kirby Smart’s I.Q. must be off the charts. Smart has exhibited a deliberate approach at each turn in his young career, from not naming a starting quarterback during the 2018 offseason, to holding off on naming a defensive coordinator. Could there be more staff changes ahead? Perhaps, though it wouldn’t seem likely. The 43-year-old Smart named 41-year-old Charlton Warren his defensive backs coach on Saturday, shortly after crossing paths with him on the recruiting trail and conversing. RELATED: Georgia football adds ‘Mr. Intensity’ to defensive meeting room Warren’s hire comes more than six weeks after Colorado announced former UGA secondary coach and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker as its new head coach (Dec. 5). Some speculated Smart would elevate 32-year-old outside linebackers coach Dan Lanning or 28-year-old inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann to defensive coordinator — or both, in a co-coordinator role. Here are three things that are next for Georgia football: Defensive coordinator It’s going to be Smart’s system on defense, regardless who gets the coordinator title, so the key here is how the staff chemistry shakes out with Warren added to the defensive meeting room. Lanning said in New Orleans that there could be an internal promotion to the coordinator position, but also, that Georgia would see how things shook out against Texas in the Sugar Bowl. RELATED: Georgia football assistant Dan Lanning shares insight into DC search Obviously, the Bulldogs didn’t fare well without Deandre Baker in the secondary, D’Andre Walker at linebacker and Jordan Davis on the defensive line. It’s hard to know how much of the defensive dropoff had to do with Tucker’s absence versus the team’s motivation after its gut-wrenching loss in the SEC title game and exclusion from the CFB playoff. It wouldn’t be surprising if Smart made the decision on his DC immediately. But it is also possible the Georgia head coach will wait until after signing day (Feb. 6), or even spring drills to name the defensive coordinator, after he gets a better feel for the chemistry and ability in the room. James Coley confirmation Coley’s promotion to play caller and full-fledged offensive coordinator from co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach wasn’t surprising. RELATED: Kirby Smart pulls trigger on elevating James Coley to OC, as expected It was, however, second-guessed by outsiders overlooking Coley’s experience as Jimbo Fisher’s offensive coordinator at Florida State and his work as Miami’s coordinator. Coley’s stock recently shot up, however, when NFL.com analyst Ian Rapoport reported last Friday that the Dallas Cowboys could consider Coley for their offensive coordinator position. As the #Cowboys dig into possible replacements for embattled OC Scott Linehan, they have one on their current staff — TE coach Doug Nussmeier — and may look to the college game to better utilize Dak Prescott’s talents. UGA OC James Coley will receive some consideration there. — Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 18, 2019   A FOIA request for Coley’s new contract last week revealed that he doesn’t yet have one, leaving room for speculation that need soon be answered. Is Coley staying, or might   he be headed for the NFL? Big staff raises The bottom line for the Georgia football coaching staff is there is plenty of money available for raises and the new hires. So far, the Bulldogs’ offensive staff has traded Jim Chaney’s $950,000 salary for new tight ends coach Todd Hartley’s first-year deal of $300,000. RELATED: Details of Georgia football assistant Todd Hartley’s new contract The defense, meanwhile, has the $1.5 million Tucker was making to spread around. Warren was due to make $401,500 at Florida next season, per the USA Today salary database, but he’s sure to get a healthy boost at Georgia. Bulldogs defensive line coach Tray Scott has earned a raise up from $420,000, with Georgia’s defensive line showing more improvement than perhaps any other position group last season. Certainly, linebackers coaches Schumann and Lanning — both previously making $325,000 — will have deals worth more than a half-million annually next season. It’s more math for Smart to do, more pieces of the puzzle, and if the Georgia head coach has proven anything his first three seasons, it’s that he’’ll take his time to make sure he gets things right. Georgia football coaches 2018 annual salaries DEFENSE DC, secondary: Mel Tucker $1.5 million Defensive line: Tray Scott $420,000 Inside linebackers: Glenn Schumann $325,000 Outside linebackers: Dan Lanning $325,000 Special teams Scott Fountain $300,000 * Charlton Warren, new coach was due $401,500 at Florida in 2019 OFFENSE OC, tight ends: Jim Chaney $950,000 Offensive line: Sam Pittman $825,00 Quarterbacks, Co-OC James Coley, $850,00 Running backs: Dell McGee $550,000 Receivers Cortez Hankton $375,000 * Todd Hartley, new tight ends coach, will make $300,000 in 2019 at UGA   The post 3 things: What’s next for Georgia football and ever-patient Kirby Smart? appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — The Georgia basketball challenges could be attributed to the brutal league slate assigned by the SEC office. Already, the Bulldogs (9-8, 1-4 SEC) have played the three top-ranked teams in the league in Tennessee, Kentucky and Auburn, and next up is a road trip to red-hot LSU. Georgia coach Tom Crean hasn’t mentioned the schedule since it was released in the preseason, instead focusing on what he can control, which would include the roller coaster play of forward Rayshaun Hammonds. The talented 6-foot-8, 235-pounder from Norcoss is the Bulldogs leading scorer this season — except when he isn’t, which would be against the better teams this season. Hammonds has been held scoreless in losses to Tennessee and most recently at home against Florida, running into foul trouble early in both games, offering little help to his teammates in other capacities. Georgia was outscored by 18 points with Hammonds in the game against the Gators, as shown below in the plus-minus category for UGA players: “ I am going to look around and see what we can do to help him and I talked to him a lot,” Crean said. “I am not down on him at all, I want him to continue to learn and want him to understand he is a lot more than just a guy who shoots and scores.” But yes, Crean admitted, “him not scoring and us not scoring are together.” Hammonds has at times shown the sort of growth and ability many projected when he was rated the No. 51 player in the nation by the 247Sports composite. It’s far too early for Hammonds to be considered a bust, especially when others have noted the growth they’ve seen from him under Crean’s direction. “I thought (Nicolas) Claxton and Hammonds have both blossomed this year under Coach Crean and that staff, and I told them both that after the game,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “They ask Rayshaun to do a lot, they don’t have a lot, they are kinda point guard by committee.” Hammonds’ issues involve fundamentals and decision making, Crean indicated. “Sometimes right now he makes the read and people are just lining up for the charge because he is going to go right into their chest,” Crean said following Saturday’s 62-52 home loss to Florida. “He is not low enough when he makes the move. “I am going to have really spend some time and be creative, look for creative ways to get him the ball in better spots than we are right now because we need him to score.” Georgia is 3-1 in its last seven games Hammonds has scored in double figures, and 0-3 when he’s been held to single-digit scoring. Rayshaun Hammonds against SEC teams 0 points Vs. Tennessee 0-for-4 shooting (0-of-2 from 3) 1 turnover 19 points Vs. Vanderbilt 6-for-13 shooting (2-of-6 from 3) 3 turnovers 9 points Vs. Auburn 2-of-6 shooting (1-of-2 from 3) 5 turnovers 11 points Vs. Kentucky 3-of-8 shooting (1-of-5 from 3) 2 turnovers 0 points Vs. Florida 0-for-4 shooting (0-for-2 from 3) 4 turnovers   The post Georgia basketball: Roller coaster Rayshaun Hammonds a key for Bulldogs appeared first on DawgNation.