Monty Rice is the next man up. The departure of Butkus award winner Roquan Smith leaves a huge gap at the WILL position and Georgia is looking for a solid replacement.
Rice saw playing time quite often as a true freshman last season and is far from foreign to the field. He got valuable minutes in the Vanderbilt and Missouri games where he was thrown to the wolves and performed quite well.
Now in his second year, he has become a lot more comfortable as a player and is beginning to grasp the playbook this spring.
“Last years spring practice I had no idea what I was doing,” Rice said. “This year I’ve been familiar with the defense that we run, so I’m able to make more calls and checks to help my teammates play.”
The production of this position group and the defense as a whole was through the roof in a year where Georgia had very experienced mature team that improved in almost all major defensive categories.
Kirby Smart is adamant on the new set of players to become leaders and start to create a new identity for this team.
“He just wants somebody out there who is going to make calls and be a vocal leader and be a physical guy and make his presence known,” Rice said. He challenges the whole group to do what we’re supposed to do and do it at a high level.”
Besides the obvious starter at the inside in Natrez Patrick, Rice is in prime position to assume the open spot at the WILL position and is starting to see steady progress in his game this spring.
Its hard to imagine somebody could replace Roquan Smith, but that’s not how Rice is looking at it.
“He did his thing while he was here,” Rice said. “You know I’m a whole different person from him, and I want to do my own thing.”