ATLANTA, Ga. — Georgia inside linebacker Monty Rice has been sidelined since suffering a foot injury in pre-game warm-up prior to the Bulldogs clash with UMass two weeks ago. If pre-game warm-ups for the SEC Championship game is any indication, the Madison, Ala. native will make his return to the field against No. 1 Alabama on Saturday.
Rice went through drills with the inside linebackers at full speed and worked alongside Natrez Patrick with the second-team defense when the Bulldogs went to their seven-on-seven period during warm-ups. At first, he appeared a little stiff and wasn’t moving around well, but his movement improved as the session went on.
Kirby Smart told reporters on Friday that Rice was able to practice more as this week progressed. He was first seen back on the practice field on Tuesday when the Bulldogs went to a fully-padded practice. He was absent on Monday and reporters weren’t allowed to see any practice last week.
Despite missing three games this season, Rice is Georgia’s second-leading tackler with 59 total stops. Prior to his injury, he was playing his best football of the season. In the three games after the open week against Florida, Kentucky, and Auburn, Rice had racked up 27 tops, a sack, and a tackle and a half for a loss. He trails only Richard LeCounte III in tackles. The sophomore safety has 64 stops on the season.
Rice dealt with a sprained MCL earlier in the year, keeping him out of the Missouri game and limiting him against Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and LSU.
In his absence, seniors Juwan Taylor and Natrez Patrick were forced to take on bigger roles. The same could be said for redshirt junior Tae Crowder, who has started the past five games at inside linebacker.
Whether or not he will be 100 percent against the Crimson Tide remains to be seen, but he could give the Bulldog defense a much-needed shot in the arm. In addition to being one of the Bulldogs’ most productive inside linebackers, he’s also the most consistent and instinctive player in that group. Rice is also one of the Bulldogs better athletes at the inside linebacker position.
He’ll be a welcome addition for a defense that will have its hands full against the Heisman Trophy frontrunner Tua Tagovailoa. Alabama leads the SEC in average yards per pass attempt at 11.7. It also sports an effective run game, ranking fourth in the league at just over 205 yards per game. The Crimson Tide ranks third in average yards per carry at 5.34, and their running backs have combined to catch 35 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns on the year.
Georgia and Alabama will kick off at 4 p.m. ET and the game will be televised by CBS. Georgia is currently the 12-point underdog according to VegasInsider.com.