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Georgia defensive back Deandre Baker (18) and Georgia defensive back J.R. Reed (20) are expected to have big seasons in 2018.

6 Georgia Bulldogs featured on Athlon All-SEC first team; long road ahead on diamond

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.

Thirteen Bulldogs included on Athlon All-SEC teams

We’ve reached the point of the offseason when college football publications release their preseason all-conference and All-America teams. And while these lists probably will never tell us anything valuable about the upcoming season, they do give us a baseline for what the college football world thinks of Georgia’s best Bulldogs.

Athlon Sports released its All-SEC teams this week, and Georgia had more players included than any other team in the conference. In total, 13 Dawgs were named to one of four Athlon All-SEC teams, with six being named All-SEC first-teamers.

Two Dawgs earned spots on the first-team offense, both of them rising sophomores. Andrew Thomas, a former right tackle who will play on the left side in 2018, and all-purpose player D’Andre Swift, the Dawgs’ leading returning rusher.

Leading Georgia defenders on the first-team defense is Deandre Baker, perhaps the best player on the team this year. He’s joined there by another member of Georgia’s secondary, safety J.R. Reed, the team’s leading returning tackler.

Two Bulldogs are also included in the four spots for first-team specialists, a testament to how good the special teams could be in 2018. Junior kicker Rodrigo Blankenship was given a spot on the first team after hitting 20 of 23 field goals as a sophomore. Fellow junior Mecole Hardman is the first-team punt returner. Although he didn’t score a return touchdown last season, Hardman led the SEC in total punt return yards and average per return.

Fifth-year senior center Lamont Gaillard was Georgia’s lone second-team selection. The third team, however, included five Bulldogs: wide receiver Terry Godwin, tight end Isaac Nauta, defensive lineman Tyler Clark and linebacker Natrez Patrick and Hardman as a kick returner. Senior defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter is the only Georgia player on the fourth team.

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Diamond Dogs drop SEC Tournament opener

This has been a fantastic season for Georgia baseball, but the Diamond Dogs didn’t get off to the start they wanted in the SEC Tournament. Georgia dropped its opener 7-0 to Texas A&M Wednesday in Hoover, Ala.

“Texas A&M was better than us,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said Wednesday. “I thought both starting pitchers got off to good starts and then there was the delay and they came back from that. In the fourth, their hitters did the job with two outs and runners on base. When you play a good team like Texas A&M, you can’t give them extra outs and you have to take advantage of your opportunities. They did, and we didn’t when we had a chance to score.”

But a loss isn’t the end of Georgia’s SEC tourney road. The Bulldogs drop down to the loser’s bracket in this double-elimination tournament and face Ole Miss at 10:30 a.m. ET on Thursday.

List-O-Mania

Another day, another list that shows Georgia has one of the easiest schedules in the SEC. This one, from CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli, ranks the Dawgs’ schedule as the 13th-most difficult in the conference. I’m starting to get the feeling folks think the SEC East will be a cakewalk this year …

The reason Georgia ranks so low has to do with factors the Dawgs have some control over, and some they don’t. The nonconference slate isn’t special.

There’s the rivalry game with Georgia Tech as well as games against Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee and UMass. That’s not all that different from most other SEC teams, but Georgia gets dragged down by playing in the East and not having Georgia on its schedule to boost its SOS.

Still, they will have to face both LSU and Auburn out of the West, so it’s important to remember that all of these rankings are relative. If Georgia is in the SEC title game again this year, it’s going to have a playoff case.

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