Aug. 7, 2001
ATLANTA – With practice for the 2001 Georgia Tech football season getting underway on Monday for the entire Yellow Jacket football team, the Tech offense will begin to have a different look, not only in personnel, but in philosophy as well. The biggest part of that is new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, but another important cog in the wheel of change is senior tight end Russell Matvay.
The departure of Ralph Friedgen for the head coaching spot at Maryland left the offense for O’Brien to put his stamp on in 2001. While much of the approach will stay the same, the Jackets plan to add another wrinkle to their game plan, one that includes the tight end as a focal point. Because of that, when someone talks about Georgia Tech’s tight ends, they must also talk about Matvay.
As Matvay and his teammates began practice, there was little work on installing the offense, but with the progression of two-a-day workouts, followed by preparation in earnest for Tech’s first opponent Syracuse in the Kickoff Classic on Aug. 26 at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., that will certainly change. Matvay says his position will be a point of emphasis in the Jacket offensive scheme.
“This year we’re going to be looking to the tight end a lot more,” said Matvay. “The tight ends are a big part of the offense and this year we will look to get them more catches.”
Matvay, a native of Coram, N.Y., admits that in past seasons the Jackets had primarily mixed the run and pass in their offensive game plan, mainly running with fullbacks and tailbacks, while utilizing the ample speed on the outside as the focus of the passing attack. While effective, teams on both the collegiate and professional level have begun to put even more emphasis on the tight end position, in order to add more options to the offense and give the defense even more things to consider in its own game plan. It is this mode of thinking that has Matvay excited and looking forward to a new challenge of greater involvement in Tech’s passing scheme.
“By throwing to the tight end more, it opens other things up on the field for the offense,” said Matvay. “It’s good because it gives the defense something else to look out for when they play you. I’m ready for the challenge.”
With the change in approach of Tech toward its tight ends comes a new set of goals and expectations for the upcoming season. For Matvay, who has caught a total of 35 passes in three seasons, including a career high of 20 receptions in 2000, that means looking for the ball much more often, possibly with numbers to rival his career totals and not just his own personal season bests.
“I’ve set some different goals for this season,” said Matvay. “I would love to have 30 or more catches this year.”
Along with being excited about loftier goals for him in 2001, Matvay understands that there are higher expectations for the Yellow Jacket football team as well this year. He feels that those expectations are deserved because of the makeup of this year’s team and that the 12-game regular season will help Tech in its quest to prove the pundits correct.
“There are a lot of high expectations for the team this year,” said Matvay. “We have 18 returning starters, and I think we have great leadership with the senior class on the team as well. I’m excited about the 12th game this year, not only because I will get to go home for a game and have a lot of family and friends in the stands, but also I think the extra practice will help us build confidence for the year.”
While fans and media like to anticipate Tech’s visit to Florida State on Sept. 15, Matvay says that the Jackets’ focus has been and will continue to be on the next opponent, which at this time happens to be the Orangemen.
“People are talking about the Florida State game being big this year,” said Matvay. “We know that we have to take it one game at a time and in practice, our minds are totally on Syracuse and getting ready for that game. We’ll worry about the Florida State game when it gets here.”
In today’s college football landscape, each week and game can have a great impact on a team’s season. For Georgia Tech, a complete focus on taking the season on a game-by-game basis, along with a new look offensive scheme anchored around veterans such as Russell Matvay, should be key ingredients in a recipe for success in 2001.