ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia enters preseason camp knowing what's being said about them on the outside, and what they're hearing is pretty good.
The general consensus is they're favorites to win the SEC East.
It's lofty expectations for a program that's struggled to get to the SEC Championship the last half decade. But now with a little bit more stability all around, including with second-year head coach Kirby Smart having a year under his belt, the confidence in the Bulldogs seems to be high.
That's especially true when it comes to the defense, which is seeing nearly all its starters from last season return. Linebacker Lorenzo Carter leads one of the top linebacker groups in the SEC, and he's projected to be a high draft pick next spring if all goes well. Last season he had a career-high five sacks and 44 total tackles, six for loss.
"I definitely would like to think of myself as one of the top pass rushers," Carter said. "I'm not going out there and trying to make every sack, make every play. But when it happens, I want to be able to say that I can seize the moment."
On the weak side will be junior Roquan Smith, who made a big leap from his freshman to sophomore season, becoming the team's leading tackler with 95 stops. But Smith is weary of the hype of the team and his defense.
He wears a bracelet on his left arm that says "Humble over hype." He wears it so the message is facing him as he raises his arm.
"We're not really buying the hype," Smith said after the bracelet was acknowledged. "I know we have the pieces here to be something special. You just can't be complacent and take it one game at a time."
A bunch of the guys have the bracelet, and they got them from receiver Terry Godwin. Smith isn't sure where he got it, but it seems like a timely message for the team to have as the preseason talk gets louder and more prevalent.
It wouldn't be surprising to see Smart get one of his own.
"I don't think this team is buying the hype or anything like that," Smith said. "We're planning on working hard each and every day. We will actually give everything we have each and every day."
Smart made it clear he doesn't think all of the defense is where it needs to be. While veterans make up the secondary, there's not a lot of depth, just a lot of young un-proven talent waiting for a chance.
"Do they play to the standard of what University of Georgia is? I don't think so. I can't sit here and say we play to the level of expectation that a secondary should play to," Smart said.
Whether they're listening to Smart or wearing one of those bracelets, the Bulldogs are staying grounded and not looking too far ahead at possibly reclaiming a title in the east.
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