The inside linebacker position can be a difficult one to master. Much like a quarterback on offense, an inside linebacker is responsible for pre-snap reads, ensuring that his teammates are in the best position possible, and has to make plays on the field. Monty Rice, the inside linebacker for the University of Georgia Bulldogs, is one of the best to do it in today’s college football.
In this article, I’ll explain why I think he’s one of the best. I’ll provide some background on his career, and then we’ll breakdown some tape on Rice. This is just another Summer scouting report as we continue to spotlight lesser known 2021 NFL Draft prospects.
Monty Rice was a four-star prospect, according to 24/7 Sports and ESPN, out of Madison, Alabama. ESPN had him listed as the 11th best ILB in his recruiting class, while 24/7 Sports had him at 18th. He also made the 2016 Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 7A First Team defense.
Before settling on the University of Georgia, Monty Rice had offers from Alabama, Michigan, and LSU. In fact, Rice had committed to LSU in December before ultimately changing his commitment to Georgia in January of 2017. Monty Rice officially enrolled at the University of Georgia in January, shortly after his commitment.
Monty Rice finished the 2017 season with 22 total tackles for Georgia, including 10 solo tackles in 14 appearances as he played behind Roquan Smith, who is now with the Chicago Bears. In 2018, Monty Rice began the season as the starter, but battled through several injuries. In nine games, Rice finished with 59 total tackles for the Bulldogs defense.
Last season, Monty Rice appeared in all fourteen games for the Georgia Bulldogs. He finished with 89 total tackles, including three for loss and three passes deflected. Additionally, Rice had two games with double-digit tackles, in games against South Carolina and Auburn. Monty Rice was also named to the Associated Press All-SEC second-team.
What I Like About Monty Rice
Now it’s time to breakdown some film on Monty Rice. I’ve included three clips that I best feel highlight what Rice does best. For the first clip, we stay in Athens as the Bulldogs host South Carolina. Monty Rice wears number 32 for the Georgia Bulldogs.
Key And Attack Ball In Traffic
On this play, Monty Rice does a great job of moving laterally through traffic. Rice does a good job of keeping his eyes on the ball carrier and tracking him across the field. Once the sea parts, Rice attacks and brings down the running back. It’s a simple play for the linebacker, but one that keeps a big play from happening.
Diagnose And React To Read-Option
Once again, it’s on Monty Rice to make a play here. It’s a read-option play, which we’re seeing more and more of in the NFL. Rice displays a solid ability of diagnosing the handoff and takes a great angle to cut the ball carrier off before he can break through his gap.
Man Coverage Across Middle Of Field
I wanted to include some plays that involved Monty Rice dropping into coverage. On this one, we have Rice tasked with covering the running back out of the backfield. As the back cuts back across the middle of the field, Rice does a nice job of mirroring him and attacking the ball quickly. What really impressed me was Rice’s ability to get a hand in front of the receiver to break up the pass cleanly.
What I Dislike About Monty Rice
As impressed as I am with Monty Rice’s caliber of play for the University of Georgia, I still have concerns. Below, I’ve attached two clips that highlight those concerns. For the first clip, we’re once again staying in Athens for the game against South Carolina.
Leveraging Outside Runs By The Quarterback
Unlike top inside linebackers that we’ve seen in the NFL Draft, such as Roquan Smith and Isaiah Simmons, we won’t see Monty Rice break any speed records. Therefore, he has to rely on being in the right position to make plays. As you can see below, he misdiagnoses the read-option, which puts him behind the eight ball. He’s unable to leverage the outside as the quarterback nearly breaks the run for a first down.
Quarterback Spy Ability
With the quarterback in an empty backfield, Monty Rice is tasked with spying the quarterback here. Lynn Bowden Jr., a speedy quarterback for the Wildcats, gets Rice to bite as he turns his hips away from the quarterback. As a result, Bowden Jr. nearly breaks this run open. A missed tackle at the end of the play doesn’t help things either.
Currently, I have Monty Rice on the cusp on a day two selection the 2021 NFL Draft, putting him somewhere in the late-third to early-fourth round range for the Georgia linebacker. However, another productive season could move Rice into the early-third round range.
In terms of competition at the inside linebacker position, we can look at Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah from Notre Dame. With the Fighting Irish moving to the ACC Conference for the 2020 season, we could see a shake up in his draft stock. If he struggles, Monty Rice could be a 2021 NFL Draft prospect that would certainly be in a position to benefit.
On the other end of the spectrum, Merlin Robertson from Arizona State could look to leap Rice. If Monty Rice struggles this season, he may need to look at the Senior Bowl or NFL Combine to regain some draft stock.
Monty Rice is a fantastic inside linebacker for the University of Georgia Bulldogs. He plays with incredible instincts and excels at locating the ball in traffic. By way of his lateral agility, Rice is one of the best at the point of attack in run defense situations. When he’s asked to drop into coverage, Monty Rice is able to hold his own and make plays on the ball.
I’d like to see Rice improve at diagnosing read-option plays quickly and accurately. In addition, I do have some mild concerns with his injury history. However, he was able to play in all 14 games last season.