Fresno State linebacker Justin Rice finds new home at Arkansas State

Fresno State linebacker Justin Rice recovers and scores a touchdown during a home victory against the University of Nevada Las Vegas at Bulldog Stadium on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. (Larry Valenzuela/The Collegian)

Just one week after entering the transfer portal, Justin Rice announced he will suit up for Arkansas State as a graduate student.

Rice’s move to Arkansas State allows him an opportunity to play out his final year of eligibility following the cancelation of the Mountain West (MW) fall sports season.

Arkansas State will be one of the 76 FBS teams playing football this fall, even after multiple conferences canceled their fall sports. 

“The 2020 Sun Belt Conference football season will be comprised of an 8-conference game schedule with an option for each member to add as many as four non-conference opponents, beginning [labor day weekend],” the league said in a statement on August 4. 

The Sun Belt Conference is a 10-team league including programs such as Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Troy, Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe, Texas State and South Alabama.

Since 2014, Arkansas State has won two Sun Belt championships and six bowl appearances. Last season they went 8-5, winning five out of their last six games.

The 6-foot-2, 225 running back turned linebacker announced his decision last Friday in a letter to “friends and family of Fresno State Football.” 

Rice said the COVID-19 pandemic pushed him to enter the transfer portal as he wishes to “chase his dreams by having the opportunity to play football this fall.”

When Rice entered the portal, he essentially became a free agent, and schools still playing football this fall began contacting him.

This offseason, Rice was the only Bulldog to make the preseason All-MW team. He was also named preseason MW Defensive Player of the Year and added to watchlists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award.

Rice was also the only Bulldog to have a first-team selection in the annual Phil Steele Magazine.

In his first full season as a linebacker last season, Rice was selected as a first-team All-MW linebacker. He also led the Bulldogs in tackles.

Rice finished third in the MW for tackles, tied for fourth in the NCAA with four forced fumbles and ranked No. 5 in forced fumbles per game. 

Written by Marc Anthony Lopez and Jesús Cano

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