Jackets Open Spring Practice Thursday

Feb. 26, 2007

Position by Position

ATLANTA–With 17 starters returning from last year’s Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division champions, the Georgia Tech football team opens spring practice Thursday afternoon at 3:45 p.m. at Rose Bowl Field.

Thursday’s practice is the first of 15 spring sessions for the Jackets, who posted a 9-5 record last fall while winning the ACC Coastal Division with a 7-1 mark and earning their 10th straight bowl berth.

Spring practice continues with workouts Friday (3:45 p.m.) and Saturday (11 a.m.) and runs through April 7, although the Jackets will be off from March 17-27 for spring break.

“The reason we’re starting spring practice earlier this year is to give our players more time at the end of the semester to finish strong academically,” said Tech head coach Chan Gailey, who enters his sixth season on the Flats.

Seven starters return on offense, led by tailback Tashard Choice. The ACC’s leading rusher last fall figures to be one of the nation’s top backs this time around. He will run behind an outstanding fullback in Mike Cox and a veteran offensive line that returns four starters.

Tech will have a new face under center for the first time in four years with junior Taylor Bennett expected to build on his strong performance in the Toyota Gator Bowl. Bennett, however, will not have the luxury of throwing to all-America wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who moved on to the National Football League, but junior James Johnson leads the receiving corps.

The offense also features a new coordinator as the Jackets welcome John Bond, who formerly held the same position at Northern Illinois, but Gailey does not predict drastic changes.

“We’re keeping the same terminology and a lot of the same characteristics of our offense,” said Gailey. “I wanted to keep the terminology as close to the same as possible, and I wanted to keep the running game as close to the same as possible. We’ve been pretty good running the football so I didn’t want to start messing with that aspect too much. So I asked him (John Bond) to keep that as similar as possible but incorporate the thought processes he used to be 14th and 16th in the nation the last few years offensively. What Taylor will have to learn is the new passing game with some new terminology and philosophy.

Last year, the Tech defense ranked in the top 30 nationally in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense and pass efficiency defense while holding eight opponents to one offensive touchdown or less.

That unit returns eight starters, led by all-America linebacker Philip Wheeler, who led the Jackets in sacks and tackles for loss.

The defensive line returns three starters, including all-ACC end Adamm Oliver, while returning safeties Jamal Lewis, another all-ACC selection, and Djay Jones anchor the secondary.

The Rambling Wreck special teams feature the nation’s top returning punter in all-America Durant Brooks and three-year starter Travis Bell at placekicker.

Gailey announced that sophomore quarterback Jonathan Garner has left the team and is expected to transfer following the semester.

Several key players will miss spring drills while recovering from offseason surgery but all are expected to be ready for the start of fall practice. That group includes a pair of returning starters in fullback Mike Cox and free safety Djay Jones, as well as projected starting tight end Colin Peek, right tackle candidate Cord Howard and linebacker Sedric Griffin.

SPRING PRACTICE DATESSubject to ChangeMarch 1, 3:45 p.m., Rose BowlMarch 2, 3:45 p.m., Rose BowlMarch 3, 11 a.m., Rose BowlMarch 7, 3:45 p.m., Rose BowlMarch 9, 3:45 p.m., Rose BowlMarch 10, 11 a.m., Bobby Dodd StadiumMarch 12, 3:45 p.m., Rose BowlMarch 14, 3:45 p.m., Rose BowlMarch 16, 3:45 p.m., Rose BowlMarch 28, 3:45 p.m., Rose BowlMarch 30, 3:45 p.m., Rose BowlMarch 31, 11 a.m., Bobby Dodd StadiumApril 4, 3:45 p.m., Rose BowlApril 6, 3:45 p.m., Rose BowlApril 7, 11 a.m., Bobby Dodd Stadium

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