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Riley Ridley (left) and Isaac Nauta (right) could have breakout seasons for Georgia in 2018.

Georgia football: 5 offensive players poised to break out in 2018

Cy Brown

Welcome to Good Day, UGA, your one-stop shop for Georgia football news and takes. Check us out every weekday morning for everything you need to know about Georgia football, recruiting, basketball and more.

5 Bulldogs who could break out on offense

Compared to the defense, Georgia’s offense heads into the 2018 season relatively unscathed from departures.

Although the Dawgs lost Nick Chubb and Sony Michel at tailback, they should be improved at every other position on offense. And there are plenty of talented Dawgs on the verge of a breakout campaign.

Here are five Bulldogs ready to make a difference.

  • Riley Ridley, wide receiver: Ridley had a solid freshman outing in 2016, hauling in 12 catches for 238 yards and 2 touchdowns. That production dropped steeply his sophomore season with just 8 catches for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns. But in the National Championship Game, he rose to the occasion with 6 catches for 82 yards. If he can continue that connection with Jake Fromm this season, he could make a play to become UGA’s top receiver.
  • Ben Cleveland, right guard:  Cleveland beat out Solomon Kindley and was fantastic in a run of five starts at right guard to end last season. Although I think he’ll play out his UGA career at guard, he could see work at right tackle if one of the talented freshman guards steps up and the coaches believe Cleveland is a cut above Isaiah Wilson and Cade Mays, at least for now.
  • Elijah Holyfield, tailback: Holyfield has done some serious bulking up recently and appears to be in line to become Georgia’s No. 2 back behind D’Andre Swift. Based on how Georgia has used its tailbacks the past few years, that’s as good as a starting job at some schools. But he’ll have to hold off fellow junior Brian Herrien, as well as freshmen Zamir White and James Cook to hold on to the gig.
  • Isaac Nauta, tight end: In 2016, Nauta looked like a future star, hauling in 29 catches for 361 yards and 3 touchdowns. Then, Georgia decided to stop throwing to tight ends and his production dropped to 9 catches for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns. But with a greater emphasis on the passing game potentially in the cards this season, Nauta could once again take on a larger role in the offense and finally turn into the star that was expected from him last season.
  • Ahkil Crumpton, wide receiver: Crumpton had a quiet 2017 — 5 catches, 95 yards and 1 TD — but it’s difficult to expect too much from a JUCO transfer who joined the team only a few weeks before the season began. But he did use those few opportunities to prove he can be an explosive playmaker, because 78 of those yards and that TD came on the same play against Georgia Tech and he had another big play at G-Day. That’s a small sample size, but now that he has a year in the offense, I think Crumpton could be one of the most explosive players on the team, if his number is called more often.

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Diamond Dogs end regular season on high

This has been a resurgent season for Georgia baseball (37-17 overall, 18-12 SEC) and it ended with the No. 13 Diamond Dawgs beating No. 6 Arkansas two games to one in a three-game series at Foley Field. And they clinched the series in thrilling fashion, with a 3-2 win Saturday as Keegan McGovern gunned down Arkansas outfielder Dominic Fletcher at home on a potential sacrifice fly that would have tied the game.

I can’t think of few more exciting ways to head into the postseason than with a play like this.

Now the focus turns to the SEC Tournament, which commences this week in Hoover, Ala. Georgia holds the No. 3 seed and will open the tourney Wednesday, May 23 at 10:30 a.m ET against the winner of the first-round game between 11th-seeded Texas A&M and sixth-seeded Vanderbilt. The game will be shown live on SEC Network.

Georgia softball to host Tennessee in Athens Super Regional

While Georgia baseball is about to start its postseason run, Georgia softball is in the middle of a run of its own.

The Bulldogs went 3-0 in the NCAA Athens Regional over the weeken, beating Harvard once and Northwestern twice to advance to the Athens Super Regional. They’ll meet a familiar foe this weekend, with SEC East rival Tennessee coming to Athens for a best-of-three series for a place in the Women’s College World Series. The super regional starts Thursday.

Tom Crean hires 2 staff members

It was a busy weekend for Tom Crean as the new Georgia men’s basketball coach put the finishing touches to his staff by hiring his third and final assistant as well as a new support staffer.

Amir Abdur-Rahim will join Chad Dollar and Joe Scott as Crean’s assistants. Abdur-Rahim has strong ties to the state of Georgia. He’s a graduate of Wheeler High School in Marietta and also coached at Georgia Tech for a spell. He also has SEC experience, spending the last four seasons as an assistant at Texas A&M. And if his name sounds familiar, you probably know his brother, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, a former member of the Atlanta Hawks and an NBA All-Star.

“Amir has proven himself to be an outstanding basketball coach with the drive and knowledge to help develop players, game plans and overall scope of the programs he has worked in,” Crean said in a statement. “His ability to recruit is shown in his energy, dogged determination and relationship building. His knowledge of the SEC and ability to work with our big men will provide immediate help.”

Crean also added Jake Thelen to his staff as the director of basketball operations. Thelen worked for Crean at Indiana as a graduate assistant before heading back to his alma mater, Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., as an assistant coach last season after Crean was fired by the Hoosiers.

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