Gamecocks picked third in SEC East; Kroeger first-team All-SEC

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — South Carolina was picked to finish third in the SEC East this season in the annual voting conducted at SEC Media Days.
Back-to-back national champion Georgia was picked to win the East, and to win its second straight SEC championship. Alabama was picked to win the SEC West.
The Gamecocks received 1,254 votes for third, behind Tennessee and above Kentucky. They received three votes to win the SEC championship.
Only nine times since 1992 (31 years) has the predicted champion proceeded to win the SEC Championship Game, but the media has gotten it right five times in the past nine years.
The Gamecocks were well represented on the list of preseason first-team specialists, with punter Kai Kroeger and kickoff specialist Mitch Jeter earning nods. Dakereon Joyner from Fort Dorchester High School was a third-team selection as an all-purpose player.
Receiver Juice Wells made the second team and tight end Trey Knox, a first-year transfer from Arkansas, made the third team. Defensive lineman Tonka Hemingway also made the third team.
Media covering the SEC's media days that concluded Thursday in gave Georgia coach Kirby Smart and his Bulldogs 181 votes to win the title in the poll released Friday. Alabama received 62 votes. LSU, which lost the title to Georgia last December, was third (31).
Tennessee was a distant fourth, tied with in-state rival Vanderbilt despite the Commodores never winning the league championship. Arkansas, Auburn, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and South Carolina received at least one vote to win the SEC title.
Eleven LSU players were named to the preseason All-SEC team, including first-team picks quarterback Jayden Daniels, wide receiver Malik Nabers, offensive tackle Will Campbell, linebacker Harold Perkins Jr. and defensive linemen Mekhi Wingo and Maason Smith.
Alabama had 16 players picked, with six first-team selections: Offensive guard JC Latham, outside linebacker Dallas Turner, kicker Will Reichard, long-snapper Kneeland Hibbett and Kool-Aid McKinstry, who was selected at both cornerback and return specialist.
Georgia had the most first-team selections of anyone in the conference: Receiver Ladd McConkey, tight end Brock Bowers, center Sedrick Van Pran, offensive linemen Amarius Mims and Tate Ratledge, defensive linemen Mykel Williams and Nazir Stackhouse, linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson and defensive backs Malaki Starks, Kamari Lassiter and Javon Bullard.
"The threat for us," Georgia's Smart said, "is complacency."
Georgia, which opens the season with back-to-back home games against UT Martin (Sept. 2) and Ball State (Sept. 9), has not named a starting quarterback.
Smart told ESPN that junior Carson Beck is the front-runner to replace Stetson Bennett at the position but he "hasn't done enough to say he's the starter."
Redshirt sophomore Brock Vandagriff and redshirt freshman Gunner Stockton are also in competition.

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