Jackets Begin Spring Practice

March 11, 2005

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech, which returns 17 starters from last year’s squad that earned Tech’s school-record eighth straight bowl game, began spring football practice today with a non-contact workout at Rose Bowl Field.

Practice number two is scheduled for Saturday morning, and the Jackets will continue through March 19, then take a week off for spring break before resuming drills from March 29-April 16.

“It’s always great to get back out on the field. Our guys have been in the weight room doing some conditioning work, but it’s good to get to some football,” said head coach Chan Gailey, entering his fourth season as the Tech head coach. “We are looking at the knowledge retention from what we did last year and seeing where we are as far as the physical and conditioning.”

“We have a lot of young players and we need to see how much they have developed. We’re looking to see if they have picked it up mentally and if the offseason helped them develop a little physically.

Senior defensive end Travis Parker, a three-year starter, and sophomore center Kevin Tuminello, who could be a candidate for a starting job, will miss spring practice recovering from offseason surgery, Parker on his shoulder and Tuminello on his ankle. Both should be ready for fall practice. In addition, senior cornerback Dennis Davis will be limited to non-contact drills after season-ending shoulder surgery last September. Davis, who started the first three games of 2004, was granted a medical hardship to return for a fifth season.

While Tech’s biggest priority this spring will be rebuilding an offensive line that graduated three starters, the quarterback position will probably receive the most scrutinyas the Jackets seek more consistent play from two-year starter and former ACC Rookie of the Year Reggie Ball. The junior from Stone Mountain ranked third in the ACC in total offense last fall (206.6 yards per game) and ended the season with an MVP performance in the Champs Sports Bowl, but he was plagued by 18 interceptions.

“With the quarterback position comes a certain amount of scrutiny, which means you criticism when you lose and accolades when you win,” said Gailey.

Ball is expected to be pushed by a pair of redshirt freshmen, Taylor Bennett and Kyle Manley.

Offensively, the Jackets also return former ACC rushing leader P.J. Daniels at tailback and sensational sophomore wide receiver Calvin Johnson, the 2004 ACC Rookie of the Year. Senior Brad Honeycutt is Tech’s top returning lineman. He moves to right tackle this spring after starting two years at right guard.

The Tech defense was outstanding last fall, ranking 12th in the nation by allowing just 297.9 yards per game, the best figure by a Rambling Wreck defense since 1991. The Jackets return 10 starters, led by all-ACC middle linebacker Gerris Wilkinson and two-time all-conference defensive end Eric Henderson. Tech also welcomes back a pair of honorable mention all-ACC players in defensive end Travis Parker and safety Chris Reis, as well as two-year secondary starters Reuben Houston at cornerback and Dawan Landry at safety.

The Rambling Wreck special teams feature all-ACC placekicker Travis Bell, who hit 15 of 17 field goals as a freshman last fall.

“This time last year, the kicking game was a big question mark, and of course, Travis Bell came in a did a fine job,” said Gailey

Starting punter Ben Arndt also returns, although he could be pushed by sophomore Kyle Belcher, who also handles kickoffs. Arndt only averaged 38.5 yards per punt but had a solid net of 35.9.

Ben Arndt was not the most consistent, but he did a fine job considering where he started this time last year,” said Gailey. “I think it will be a good battle in spring practice between he and Kyle Belcher for the punting job.”

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