The former Exeter stopper had been restricted to the odd appearance in recent seasons until an injury to Michael Poke in July.
And Rice has since gone on to be one of Torquay's star performers in the opening months of the new season - much to the delight of Knill.
"He has been a massive positive, full credit to him," Knill told Press Association Sport.
"He played a couple of games at the end of last season and we spoke at the end of it and he felt he could be number one.
"He has been outstanding, he looks like a number one. He doesn't look nervous and everyone is delighted for him. And I have to say, as a person, I haven't met too many more genuine people.
"Martin comes from a background where he's been out of football so he understands what it means to be in it and he is trying to do everything to stay in it - so well done to him."