HOOVER, ALA. | Most coaches take stock of preseason predictions and move on.
Georgia coach Mark Richt on Thursday wasn‚Äôt dismissive of the fact that the Bulldogs were pegged to finish second in the Southeastern Conference‚Äôs Eastern Division.
What‚Äôs this? Richt quibbling with South Carolina as the pick to represent the East in Atlanta in the league title game?
Richt was asked at SEC Media Days if that sounded about right to have the Gamecocks numero uno.
‚ÄúUh, no,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúNo, I‚Äôd have us first. I‚Äôd have us first. ‚Ä¶ That‚Äôs our expectation to win the East. We don‚Äôt want to say we‚Äôre happy about being second. No, that‚Äôs not even close.‚Äù
Georgia finished third last season in the SEC East behind Missouri and South Carolina when the Bulldogs were 8-5 overall and 5-3 in the SEC during a season when injuries hit the Bulldogs hard.
Georgia plays at South Carolina on Sept. 13. The Gamecocks won 35-7 in their last meeting in Columbia.
‚ÄúWe got killed,‚Äù senior inside linebacker Ramik Wilson. ‚ÄúIt was bad. Very bad. That‚Äôs not going to happen this year. We‚Äôve got a new team, we‚Äôve got all the pieces. We‚Äôve got a lot of great players all around.‚Äù
They include nine players selected preseason media All-SEC.
Gurley, Wilson and kicker Mashall Morgan are on the first team. Receiver Malcolm Mitchell, linebacker Jordan Jenkins and cornerback Damian Swann made the second team. Tailback Keith Marshall, offensive lineman John Theus and defensive lineman Ray Drew are third teamers.
Even with attrition in the secondary this offseason after the dismissals of safeties Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews, Richt likes this bunch.
‚ÄúOh, yeah, we‚Äôve got a good team,‚Äù said Richt, entering his 14th season in Athens. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôll see how good we are once we get going. We‚Äôve got a lot of things to put together between now and then. I think we‚Äôve created a very good culture this summer. Just listening to our guys on the plane ride here, asking how‚Äôs it going, they‚Äôre very optimistic. They‚Äôre proud of their teammates and the work that‚Äôs been put in.‚Äù
Alabama was picked to win the West and be SEC champions, but Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban pointed out the media‚Äôs spotty record of being accurate with picks to win the SEC.
It‚Äôs been wrong the last five years and 18 of the past 22 years.
‚ÄúJust to let you know,‚Äù Saban said wrapping up his news conference, ‚Äúthat we‚Äôre evaluating you.‚Äù
Wilson said Georgia‚Äôs talent level is as good as the program has had ‚Äúin a long time here. We‚Äôve got some great looking freshmen.‚Äù
Georgia opens preseason practices on Aug. 1.
‚ÄúWe need to win now,‚Äù Wilson said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got the team to do it. We‚Äôve got one shot. A team like this comes around like once every 10 years with the weapons we‚Äôve got all around.‚Äù
Maybe that‚Äôs why Richt just puts it out there.
He said what‚Äôs important is what happens at the end of the year.
‚ÄúI think in the end,‚Äù he said. ‚Äúit‚Äôs going to be Georgia.‚Äù