ATHENS, Ga. – As the No. 5 University of Georgia football team conducted Thursday practice in preparation for a meeting with the No. 15 Texas Longhorns in the Sugar Bowl, the Bulldogs also reveled in the success of a 2019 signing class.

After an 11-2 regular season and a second-straight SEC Championship appearance, the Bulldogs are headed to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana in the New Year. The future is bright.

In New Orleans, senior Jonathan Ledbetter will play his last game in a Bulldog uniform before joining outside linebacker D’Andre Walker and long snapper Nick Moore at the Reese’s Senior Bowl on January 26 in Mobile, Alabama.

At the Team Gala this year, Ledbetter was named a team captain, voted on by the players, and received the Vince Dooley Defensive Player of the Year honor alongside senior cornerback Deandre Baker and the Defensive Up-Front Award with Walker.

“It’s bittersweet, but I’m excited,” Ledbetter said. “I told my teammates, I’m passing the torch to them after this one. I’ve got one last pow-wow with them, and I’m going to give them all I’ve got. And then I have to worry about me, and they support me, and the coaches support us. It’s getting older; we’re growing up.”

Sophomore inside linebacker Monty Rice will join Ledbetter as a leader of the defensive attack at the Sugar Bowl. Despite battling injury this season, Rice tallied up the second-most tackles on the year, and will continue to pace a defensive front that finished 2018 ranked 15th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 18.5 points per game.

“It’s the next game for me,” Rice said. “I’m motivated, we’re motivated. We want to beat them just as bad as we wanted to beat Alabama or Florida or anybody else.”

In the midst of the Sugar Bowl preparation, Georgia welcomed a 2019 signing class to the mix, a group littered with young talent that will make a difference in Athens as soon as January.

“I don’t try to convince them of anything,” Rice said on hosting the potential signees. “I just tell them how it is and how it’s going to be here. I tell them, ‘If you want to come play for a good coach with other good players around you, then come here. If not, this may not be the place for you.’”

The Sugar Bowl is slated for an 8:45 p.m. ET start time at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The contest will be aired on ESPN.