ATHENS Georgia quarterback legend Eric Zeier was reading defenses before the Bulldogs' defenders were born, and his read on this group is that they could be special.
"Last year I was a little more bullish offensively," Zeier told DawgNation. "This year I'm very bullish about our defense."
The Georgia first-team defense made third-year quarterback Jake Fromm look ordinary in the G-Day Game, limiting Fromm to a 14-of-29 passing day that accounted for only 116 yards and one touchdown.
Indeed, cornerback Eric Stokes stepped in front of a Fromm pass in the first quarter and returned it 39 yards for a Pick-6 touchdown.
Zeier, the SEC's all-time leading passer when he completed his career with the Bulldogs in 1994, now does color analysis for the Georgia Bulldog Radio Network.
There's a good chance Zeier saw the Pick-6 coming before the snap.
"Obviously looking Deandre Baker is tough," Zeier said. "But I think in the secondary, we'll be as strong as anyone.
"We have big, tall and athletic guys that can cover."
Zeier explained how that depth and talent on the back end is what will allow Coach Kirby Smart to get into the sort of defensive of fronts that create havoc.
"A great secondary allows us to get into more one-on-one situations, where we can cover and still get more exotic with our looks if we need to," Zeier said. "Kirby's M.O. has been to keep it simple, but we can do some things."
Zeier summarized the linebacker corps as "elite," though he knows as well as anyone that new defensive coordinator Dan Lanning and assistant defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann have much to sort out at the position.
Junior Monty Rice appears tabbed as the leader of the group, and senior Tae Crowder has become a known commodity.
After that, it's a mad scramble with one talented player after another competing for playing time, including new faces at inside linebacker (Nakobe Dean) and outside linebacker (Nolan Smith, Jermaine Johnson).
Zeier believes the defensive line will be up to the challenge, as well.
"I think the difference you will see this year is on our interior line on the defense" Zeier said. "We are bigger than we have ever been, and we have the capability to rotate in five guys that are 300 pounds or north of it and allow our linebackers to wreak havoc and be disruptive in the run game or pass game."
Sophomore Jordan Davis, a 2018 Freshman All-American, will obviously be one of those interior lineman Zeier refers to, along with senior veterans Tyler Clark and Michael Barnett.
"The big leap we will see this year is our defense can go out and be a dominant unit," he said. "It's all assuming everyone stays heathy. That will be the difference maker."
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