ATLANTA (Apr. 10) – With just two days of practice remaining, Georgia Tech’s quarterback position is taking shape and the Yellow Jackets’ defense has shown improvement, according to head coach George O’Leary.
The Yellow Jackets are scheduled to conclude the spring with workouts Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon. Tech, which posted an 8-4 record last fall, opens the 2000 season Aug. 27 at Virginia Tech in the BCA Bowl.
“I’ve seen the defense really mature,” said O’Leary, entering his sixth season. “They’re still making some mistakes we’d like to correct, but they’re maturing. I see them making a lot more plays upfront, which is the key to good defense.
“The defensive end position is really a very much improved position. We have better athletic ability and we’re getting more pressure on the quarterback. We’re getting more push inside.”
Sophomore defensive end Greg Gathers (LaPlace, La.) is Tech’s top returnee on the defensive line after earning Freshman All-America honors last fall with seven sacks and 18 tackles for loss. Senior defensive end Felipe Claybrooks (Decatur, Ga.) also returns, while junior Nick Rogers (East Point, Ga.) moved from linebacker. On the inside, returning starters Merrix Watson (Mt. Pleasant, S.C.) and Guenter Kryszon (Clark, N.J.), both juniors, have been steady.
“At defensive end, obviously you notice Greg Gathers,” continued O’Leary. “The move of Nick Rogers to defensive end has helped, and competition will bring out the best in Felipe Claybrooks. They’ve all steadily improved from last year as far as controlling the line of scrimmage.”
O’Leary also praised the play of junior strong safety Chris Young (Senoia, Ga.) and sophomore free safety Jeremy Muyres (Stone Mountain, Ga.), as well as freshmen linebackers Ather Brown (Macon, Ga.), who has been working with the first team, and Anthony Lawston (Baltimore, Md.), a second-teamer after moving from receiver.
“I’ve been happy with the safety play,” continued O’Leary. “We still need to tackle better in the secondary, but we’ve just got to continue to work on that. At linebacker, those two freshmen [Brown and Lawston] have had good springs.”
O’Leary has yet to name a number one quarterback, but he says that junior George Godsey (Tampa, Fla.) and redshirt freshman Andy Hall (Cheraw, S.C.) have separated themselves from sophomore Jermaine Crenshaw (Greenville, Ala.) and redshirt freshman Brian Camp (Dublin, Ohio).
“I would say the starter is going to come from the two we have working, Godsey and Hall,” said O’Leary. “Godsey is not making any mistakes. He’s not going to get you in a bad situation. Hall is going to make some mistakes, but he has shown that he has the ability to take a play and something out of it, which is the key to being a good quarterback.”
In last Saturday’s final scrimmage, Hall completed his first six passes and finished nine-for-16 for 228 yards, including touchdown passes of 80 and 39 yards, while Godsey completed seven of 10 passes for 69 yards and one touchdown.
Tech’s offensive line, which must replace three starters, is coming together as senior center David Schmidgall (Clearwater, Fla.), redshirt freshman left guard Clay Hartley (Bryceville, Fla.) and redshirt freshman right tackle John Bennett (Woodstock, Ga.) join senior returnees Chris Brown (Augusta, Ga.) and Brent Key (Trussville, Ala.).
“We have Brown and Key back, and I’ve been very happy with Schmidgall,” said O’Leary. “He’s done a very good job, and behind him I’ve been happy with the move of Hugh Reilly (Alpharetta, Ga.) to center. That’s a tough position to learn. The two young athletes, Bennett and Hartley, are going to be very good football players.
“I like the athletes we have on the offensive line, and now we have three months to get in the weight room and get them stronger.”