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Georgia legend Eric Zeier shares take on quarterbacks, offensive ‘mismatch nightmares’

Eric Zeier has seen plenty of good Georgia football teams over his 14 years providing color analysis for the Georgia Bulldogs Sports Network, but this season’s group strikes him as special.

Zeier, once the SEC’s all-time leading passer, appeared on the second half of Kirby Smart’s coach’s show last Thursday.

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Zeier’s analysis is as sharp as his passing touch was at UGA, and he provided some insight into key issues with the rivalry game against Florida (3:30 p.m., Saturday) fast approaching.

Here are some of Zeier’s takeaways:

Perfect time for bye week

“Typically when you are winning you want to keep going, but … when you look at the gauntlet we’ve had to go through in the month of October, and really since the start of the season: We played Clemson as a top 5 team, (then Arkansas) the No. 8 team in the country, the No. 18 team (Auburn) in the country, the No. 11 team (Kentucky) in the country.

“Then you couple that with all the injuries we’ve had, this off week couldn’t have come at a better time for us. It allows us to get healthy, to get rested going into what will be another physical battle.”

Keys to offensive scheme

“What Coach (Todd) Monken has done a great job of is distributing the ball to everyone. He is finding ways throughout the game to get all these great backs touches, and no one is putting up superstar numbers, but collectively ….

“Then, finding ways to get (Brock) Bowers and (Darnell) Washington the ball. We’re moving people around and creating mismatch nightmares for people.

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“Our tight ends, Darnell and Brock Bowers, create so many problems for defenses because they are so fast, especially when you look at the way Bowers can run. If you try to cover those guys with linebackers, they can’t keep up, they’re no way they can do it.

“Then they are so big that you are going to get put into spots that the defensive backs can’t get around those big bodies, both Brock and Darnell.

“We’re not predictable. People will talk about not having an identity, but our identity is, whatever you are doing, we are going to run the best plays that hurt you, and we have done it time and time again.”

Why Stetson Bennett could start

“This is tough, because JT Daniels, it’s hard to lose your job if you are the starter and the guy. Typically when you get back (from injury) and you get healthy, you get inserted back into the game.

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“But the way Stetson Bennett has played, he is playing as efficiently right now as anyone in the conference. I haven’t seen every quarterback across the country, but definitely out of the quarterbacks we have seen, he is protecting the football, he’s aggressive with the football, he’s going to the right spot, he is in complete control of his game right now.

“So to go pull him, the way this offense is playing, I think is very difficult.”

How JT Daniels could start

“I think what you have to see from JT Daniels this week, in order to make a change, is one, that he has zero lingering effect. Then, that he is playing at the speed that this offense is now playing at.

“You can get healthy, but to get your body operating at the speed that everyone else has been operating at for weeks on end while he’s been healing and not been able to get reps, that’s an entirely different ball game.

“I think if Kirby sees him operating at a high level, command of the offense, throwing the football the way we know he can throw the football, I think it’s going to be a tough decision to make.

“(Smart) has a great comfort right now. He doesn’t have to rush JT back if he doesn’t think he’s all the way there.”

The difference in Bennett 2020 to 2021

“I think the cast around him is playing better. I think we have the offensive looks that Coach Monken is giving to other defenses, and it is creating mismatches that are pretty easy to see and recognize.

“But what I see in Stetson, he is playing with great confidence. If there’s one thing that he’s doing, I think he learned this from JT, is that it’s ok to take shots. I see more aggressiveness out of Stetson Bennett his year.

“I think he played as a game manager last year with a gunslinger’s mentality, still forcing the football. But when he was given opportunities to take shots last year, he didn’t take them. We didn’t make people pay for dropping eight in the box and going single safety.”

Thoughts on Dan Mullen and Florida

“When (Dan Mullen) finds something that’s hurting you, he will go to it, and go to it, and go to it. It’s very similar to Coach Spurrier in the 1990s. But (Mullen) is great at finding things that work and sticking with it.

“I think he has to start (Anthony) Richardson (at quarterback). Richardson gives that football team the greatest chance of winning, and he’s got nothing to lose.

“When you play this defense, there is zero to lose. I think Richardson gives him a better chance within his offense.

The Florida offensive line has only given up 5 sacks. This defense has 24 sacks.

How Georgia-Florida shakes out

“I do think Georgia wins… (but) at some point this year, I don’t care how dominant you are as a football team, you will be in a close ball game. And to this point, we have really cruised. Kentucky was good for a half. (But) at some point, every team will get pressed and get challenged.

“I think at some point and time it’s going to tighten up … I think the way it lines up, it’s going to be close, and I think we pull away at the end, but I firmly expect a battle down in Jacksonville.

“We’re thinking about those 44 points (in last season’s 44-28 loss) as bulletin board material, they’re building confidence off that. They are getting ready to play the No. 1 team in the country they throttled last year, they believe they can win.”

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