Arkansas State LB Justin Rice named Bednarik Award Semifinalist


The FBS leader in total tackles for loss this season, Arkansas State senior linebacker Justin Rice was announced as one of 18 semifinalists for the Chuck Bednarik award that is issued annually to the nation’s outstanding defensive player of the year.

The Red Wolves’ first ever Bednarik Award semifinalist, Rice has piled up 18.5 tackles for loss this season to go along with 76 tackles and 7.0 sacks. His tackles total includes 57 solo stops that are tied for the second most in the country, while he ranks tied for 13th in total sacks.

The Modesto, Calif., native was named the Mountain West Conference Preseason Defensive Player of the Year before transferring to A-State from Fresno State. He made an immediate impact on the Red Wolves’ defense as his 76 tackles not only lead the team, but are the sixth most in the Sun Belt Conference. He also needs just two more tackles for loss to tie the sixth most in league history.

Rice has posted double-figure stops in three games this season and 11 times in his career, while also posting multiple tackles for loss in seven outings during 2020. He was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation’s National Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 12 after recording 12 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks during the Red Wolves’ 50-27 win over Central Arkansas.

Three Bednarik Award finalists will be announced Dec. 21, while the award winner will be announced as part of the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show on Jan. 7.

Eligible voters for the award include Maxwell Football Club members, NCAA head football coaches, sports information directors and selected national media.