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In 2011, the Bulldogs defense finished ranked fifth in the nation, according to the NCAA. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Alabama, LSU and South Carolina were ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3, respectively (Fla. State No. 4).
While Georgia fans have bragging rights about their team’s defense being in the top five in the nation, it was only the fourth best in the SEC. That will change this year.
Georgia returns nine starters from last year’s defense and has an all-upperclassmen lineup. They also field the best linebacking corps in the nation, according to three preseason publications (Phil Steele, Athlon and Lindy’s).
Their 3-4 alignment is anchored by two outstanding nose tackles in senior John Jenkins (6'3", 351 lbs) and his backup, junior Kwame Geathers (6'6", 350). In all, the defensive line returns seven of their top eight players from last year’s group. This unit is deep and very talented.
The defensive backfield is projected to be one of the SEC’s best in 2012. They are anchored by a first-team All-American safety, senior Bacarri Rambo (55 tackles, eight pass break-ups, eight interceptions), and return four of their top five players.
Alabama and LSU, though loaded with talent, are rebuilding somewhat. They boast two of the best coordinators in the game in Kirby Smart and John Chavis, but return only five and six starters, respectively. Carolina returns five starters and has a new coordinator. Gone is Ellis Johnson, and in his place is Lorenzo Ward, who was promoted from DB coach to defensive coordinator.
These factors, along with this being the third year in Grantham’s defensive system, is why Georgia will break through to lead the SEC in defense in 2012.