Jackets Deep in Backfield

Aug. 10, 2001

ATLANTA– – Georgia Tech junior Joe Burns has rushed for nearly 1,500 yards in his career, but perhaps his greatest asset is his versatility.

“Joe has really come into this season very focused, and I’m very pleased with him,” said Georgia Tech head coach George O’Leary as the 13th-ranked Yellow Jackets continue preseason drills.

“He is a running back for us. By that I mean, he plays tailback, fullback, one back, slot. He’s a very versatile back. We’ve always had two or three of those guys who can play every position, and that’s what we like about our offense.”

Also a good receiver and strong blocker, Burns totalled 106.5 all-purpose yards per game last fall. He was the team’s leading rusher with 908 yards and 12 touchdowns as well as its number three receiver with 26 catches for 242 yards and one score.

The 5-10, 205-pound native of Thomasville, Ga., enter the fall in 16th place on Tech’s career rushing list with 1,469 yards. He has scored 19 touchdowns, good for seventh in Rambling Wreck annals.

A preseason all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection by Lindy’s magazine, Burns is complemented in the Tech backfield by junior Sidney Ford (Lindale, Ga.), senior Sean Gregory (Homewood, Ill.), and redshirt freshman Jimmy Dixon (Arlington, Texas).

Ford, in particular, has been impressive in the preseason.

“He’s always played well when he’s been in there, the key for him is staying healthy,” said O’Leary. “So far he’s had a really good preseason. We have a number of people we’re rolling in and out, so we have depth there.”

Ford, a 5-9, 205-pound junior, was Tech’s third-leading rusher with 246 yards but led the team with an average of 5.0 yards per carry on 49 attempts. His best performance was a 111-yard effort on just 15 carries against Wake Forest.

The veteran Gregory has more than 1,200 career yards, including 291 yards on 63 carries last season.

Even with the loss of sophomore backup Jermaine Hatch (Baton Rouge) for the season with a knee injury, Tech still returns 90 percent of its rushing offense from a year ago.

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