If Fresno State is able to play football in spring 2021, the Bulldogs will have to do so without their best defensive player.
Senior linebacker Justin Rice – the preseason Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year – announced Friday that he is entering the transfer portal.
Since Rice already graduated with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, he will be eligible to play immediately as a graduate transfer.
“We appreciate everything Justin did for Bulldog football during his time here,” said head coach Kalen Deboer. “We support his decision and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
In a statement on Twitter, Rice said he intends to play football this fall. Along with the Mountain West, the Pac-12, Big 10 and Mid-American Conference have all cancelled their fall football seasons.
Considering Rice’s performance last season – 112 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions to go along with a spot on the All-Mountain West First Team – he could be a prime target for a school in the ACC, Big 12 or SEC.
Rice’s full statement reads as follows:
“Dear friends and family of Fresno State Football. Being a Bulldog has been a tremendous honor and experience for me. I have gained invaluable life lessons both on the football field and in the classroom. Unfortunately due to COVID-19, the college football landscape has been turned upside down.
“Because of this, and after many conversations with family and coaches, I have decided to forego my senior season at Fresno State and enter the transfer portal as a graduate transfer student. This is, and was, not an easy decision for me.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank Coach DeBoer and Coach Inge for believing in me and helping my development as a person and a football player. Lastly, I would like to thank every other coach, teammate, and Fresno State fan and supporter who has been alongside me on my journey so far.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity given to me to play football for Fresno State, but I am also grateful to be able to chase my dreams by having the opportunity to play football this fall.”
Photo: Fresno State Athletics