Richt predicts Bulldogs will win SEC East

HOOVER, ALA. | Most coaches take stock of preseason predictions and move on.

Georgia coach Mark Richt on Thursday wasn’t dismissive of the fact that the Bulldogs were pegged to finish second in the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division.

What’s 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.

“Uh, no,” he said. “No, I’d have us first. I’d have us first. … That’s our expectation to win the East. We don’t want to say we’re happy about being second. No, that’s not even close.”

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.

“We got killed,” senior inside linebacker Ramik Wilson. “It was bad. Very bad. That’s not going to happen this year. We’ve got a new team, we’ve got all the pieces. We’ve got a lot of great players all around.”

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.

“Oh, yeah, we’ve got a good team,” said Richt, entering his 14th season in Athens. “We’ll see how good we are once we get going. We’ve got a lot of things to put together between now and then. I think we’ve created a very good culture this summer. Just listening to our guys on the plane ride here, asking how’s it going, they’re very optimistic. They’re proud of their teammates and the work that’s been put in.”

Alabama was picked to win the West and be SEC champions, but Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban pointed out the media’s spotty record of being accurate with picks to win the SEC.

It’s been wrong the last five years and 18 of the past 22 years.

“Just to let you know,” Saban said wrapping up his news conference, “that we’re evaluating you.”

Wilson said Georgia’s talent level is as good as the program has had “in a long time here. We’ve got some great looking freshmen.”

Georgia opens preseason practices on Aug. 1.

“We need to win now,” Wilson said. “We’ve got the team to do it. We’ve got one shot. A team like this comes around like once every 10 years with the weapons we’ve got all around.”

Maybe that’s why Richt just puts it out there.

He said what’s important is what happens at the end of the year.

“I think in the end,” he said. “it’s going to be Georgia.”

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