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Five Bulldogs earn nods as Preseason All-Americans

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ATHENS -- When Phil Steele, an American sportswriting legend and renowned college football guru, speaks, folks everywhere listen.

And Thursday, he was talking about the Georgia Bulldogs.

Steele, who works for The Orlando Sentinel, released his annual Preseason All-American list Thursday, and sure enough there were five UGA players who made the cut, while 14 more were named to Steele's All-Southeastern Conference squads, including Seminole County native Bacarri Rambo, who was honored with an All-SEC Fourth-Team nod.

But first things first. UGA's five preseason All-Americans include junior flanker A.J. Green (Summerville, S.C.) and junior punter Drew Butler (Duluth) highlighted the list after being named First Team All-Americans. Junior placekicker Blair Walsh (Boca Raton, Fla.) was named to the Second Team, senior offensive tackle Clint Boling (Alpharetta) was included on the Third Team and junior kickoff returner Brandon Boykin (Fayetteville) was placed on the Fourth Team.

Green's accolades include being a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award last year, which is given annually to the nation's top receiver. He was also an All-SEC First Team selection by The AP last season and was named the Bulldogs' MVP on offense, playing in 10 games with a team-leading 53 catches for 808 yards and six touchdowns.

As for Butler, he was also an All-SEC First Team selection in 2009 after appearing in 13 games and punting 56 times for 2,691 yards for a national-best average of 48.1 yards a kick -- 19 of which were downed inside the opponents' 20. His career long kick was for 75 yards last season against Arkansas.

Fellow kicker Walsh, who handles field goals, was one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award, which is given annually to the nation's top placekicker. Walsh played in 13 games in 2009, going 20-for-22 on field goal attempts and 42-for-42 on PATs while kicking off 75 times for 4,790 yards (63.9 avg.) with 17 touchbacks. Despite not winning the Groza Award, Walsh was later named the CollegeFootballPerformance.com Placekicker of the Year. The longest field goal of his career was 53 yards in the Dogs' season opener against Oklahoma State last season.

Boling, meanwhile, played in all 13 games for UGA a year ago, starting each one -- six at right tackle, one at right guard and then the other six at left tackle. He was named to The AP's All-SEC Second Team in 2009 and was picked by teammates and coaches as the "Best All-Around Offensive Player" at the conclusion of spring drills recently.

And finally, speedster Boykin -- who primarily plays cornerback, but also is a dangerous kick returned -- was named a Preseason All-American after setting school records last year with 38 kickoff returns, 988 return yards and three kickoffs returned for touchdowns. He also became the first player in SEC history to return two kickoffs for 100 yards in one season, doing so against South Carolina and Tennessee. He played in all 13 games last year, staring in 12, and tallied 54 tackles, six pass breakups and three interceptions. His best game last season was an eight-tackle, one-interceptions performance against then-No. 25 Auburn.

Along with those five All-American picks by Steele, the Bulldogs also had six players named to the All-SEC First Team. In addition to Green, Boling, Boykin, Walsh and Butler -- who all made the All-SEC First Team as well -- junior outside linebacker Justin Houston (Statesboro) was also named to the First Team.

Second-Team nods went to junior center Ben Jones (Centreville, Ala.) and offensive guard Cordy Glenn (Riverdale), as well as sophomore tailback Washaun Ealey (Stillmore).

Sophomore tight end Orson Charles (Tampa, Fla.), senior offensive guard Chris Davis (Jefferson), junior inside linebacker Marcus Dowtin (Upper Marlboro, Md.) and Boykin, this time as a cornerback, were named to the Third Team.

The Bulldogs' only Fourth Team selection belonged to redshirt sophomore free safety Rambo (Donalsonville), who is listed as a starter on the Bulldogs' preseason depth chart at safety after making a huge impression on coaches last year as a freshman, as well as in spring practices.

Rambo was named UGA's "Top Newcomer of the Year" after the 2009 season, appearing in 11 games and making 25 tackles, five pass breakups and two interceptions. He registered a career-high four tackles three times last season (vs. Ariz. St., at Tennessee and vs. Texas A&M) and also blocked a punt vs. Texas A&M and had an 18-yard interception return for a TD against Tennessee -- his first as a Bulldog.

Rambo also tied for the team-high for most tackles at this year's G-Day game with five.

Georgia is one of five teams with at least two players named preseason First Team All-Americans. Georgia and Alabama each has two players on the First Team and are the only two SEC teams with multiple players. North Carolina and UCLA lead the way with three players each on the First Team.

The Bulldogs and the Tide also lead the conference with six players on the All-SEC First Team. Georgia and Florida top the league with 14 players listed on all four preseason All-SEC teams combined.

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Herald sports editor Danny Aller contributed to this report.