ATLANTA – Georgia Tech faces the daunting task of trying to contain Heisman Trophy candidate Michael Vick as the Yellow Jackets open the 2000 season at 10th-ranked Virginia Tech in the BCA Bowl on Sunday, Aug. 27 at Lane Stadium/Worsham Field in Blacksburg, Va.
The game kicks off at 8 p.m. and will be nationally televised on ESPN2, with Ron Franklin, Mike Gottfried and Adrian Karsten handling the announcing. The radio broadcast on the Georgia Tech-ISP Sports Network features Wes Durham as the play-by-play voice and former Tech quarterback Kim King as the color analyst.
Coming off three consecutive bowl appearances, Georgia Tech posted a record of 8-4 in 1999. The Hokies, ranked 10th in the preseason ESPN/USA Today coaches poll and 11th by the Associated Press, were 11-1 in 1999, falling to Florida State in the national championship game.
Its a game that I look forward to playing and the team looks forward to playing, said Georgia Tech head coach George OLeary as he begins his sixth season on the Flats. It will be a great barometer for where we are and where we are going.
Vick, the versatile sophomore, passed for 1,840 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 585 yards and eight scores last fall while finishing third for the Heisman Trophy, right behind the Yellow Jackets graduated star, Joe Hamilton.
The key guy offensively is obviously Michael Vick, but Virginia Tech returns a lot of other players too, said OLeary. They have three good receivers and several good running backs, and four of the five offensive linemen return.
Defensively, well have our work cut out for us to try to contain Vick and slow him down. From what Ive seen on film, thats what everyone has tried to do with Vickslow him down. I dont think youre going to stop him.
They have a great defensive scheme with that eight-man front. They graduated quite a few starters on defense, but when youve been to six or seven straight bowls, you have replacements coming up.
Replacement has been a theme for Georgia Tech as well as junior quarterback George Godsey (Tampa, Fla.) steps into the considerable shoes of Hamilton, who started 45 of Techs last 47 games. As Hamiltons backup the last two seasons, Godsey completed 13 of 32 passes for 146 yards, including 5-for-13 for 57 yards in six games last fall.
George controls the offense, hes a good leader in the huddle and he knows what to do with the ball when he has it in his hands, said OLeary.
The key is that we have a much better surrounding cast around George than when Joe Hamilton took over four years ago.
The Jackets cast of skill players features junior flanker Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.), who set school records with 69 receptions for 1,105 yards and 10 touchdowns last fall, and tailbacks Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.), who rushed for 474 yards and five touchdowns in 1998, and Sean Gregory (Homewood, Ill.), who led the team with 837 yards and 13 touchdowns in 1999. Senior left tackle Chris Brown (Augusta, Ga.) and senior guard Brent Key (Trussville, Ala.) anchor the offensive line.
Georgia Techs defense looks to be much improved, led by junior strong safety Chris Young (Senoia, Ga.). The Jackets return their top four tacklers from a year ago in Young, 89 tackles, sophomore linebacker Recardo Wimbush (Blakely, Ga.), 91 tackles, sophomore end Greg Gathers (LaPlace, La.), 71 tackles, 18 tackles for losses, and sophomore free safety Jeremy Muyres (Stone Mountain, Ga.), 69 tackles.
The Yellow Jackets special teams return intact with sophomore kicker Luke Manget (Conyers, Ga.), set a Tech record with 86 points by kicking (11-16 FG, 53-53 PAT), and sophomore punter Dan Dyke (Winter Springs, Fla.), an Academic All-America who averaged 43.8 yards per kick.
Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech are meeting for just the second time. In 1990, the Yellow Jackets defeated the Hokies, 6-3, in Atlanta. The Jackets only points came on a pair of Scott Sisson field goals, including the game-winner from 38 yards out with just eight seconds left. One week earlier, Georgia Tech had knocked off No. 1 Virginia in Charlottesville to vault to seventh in the national polls, and the win kept alive the Rambling Wrecks undefeated season and drive to the 1990 national title.
GETTING AN EARLY START
Georgia Techs berth in the BCA Bowl against Virginia Tech marks the Yellow Jackets second appearance in a preseason game. It is also the earliest date on which Georgia Tech has ever played. In 1991, Tech opened defense of its 1990 national title by falling to Penn State, 34-22, in the Kickoff Classic in East Rutherford, N.J. That game was played on Aug. 28, the only other time that the Jackets have played a football game in August.
Perhaps no other team in the nation opens with a tougher stretch than Georgia Tech. Two of the Yellow Jackets first three games are against the two teams that played for last years national championship. Tech opens the season Aug. 27 at national runnerup Virginia Tech, and then after a home date with Central Florida, the Jackets host defending national champion Florida State on Sept. 9.
An interesting subplot to the matchup between Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech in the BCA Bowl is the friendship between Georgia Tech head coach George OLeary and offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen and Hokie head coach Frank Beamer.
The relationship goes back to 1972, when Friedgen and Beamer were graduate assistants at Maryland. The two later coached together at The Citadel (1973-78), where they were assistants to Bobby Ross, and at Murray State (1981), where Friedgen was the offensive coordinator in Beamers first year as a head coach.
OLeary and Beamer became friends when Beamer came to Atlanta to visit Friedgen and Ross in the late 1980s. Both have lake houses on Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Ga., and Friedgen is building a house nearby.
A BEAMER ON BOTH STAFFS
Shane Beamer, the only son of Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer, joins the Georgia Tech program this year as a graduate assistant on the strength and conditioning staff.
Beamer completed his playing career last fall as the long-snapper on Virginia Techs Sugar Bowl team.
TECH IN SEASON OPENERS
Georgia Tech has a record of 73-30-4 (.701) in season openers. The Yellow Jackets defeated Navy, 48-14, in last year opener. Tech is 12-19-1 (.391) when the opener is away from home. The Jackets are opening the season on the road for the fourth time in the last five years.
FRESHMEN MAKE AN IMPACT
Georgia Techs highly regarded freshman class has already made an impact on the Yellow Jackets depth chart. As many as 10 true freshmen could see action in backup roles or on special teams.
On offense, receivers Nate Curry and Jonathan Smith, tight end John Paul Foschi, fullback Johnathan Jackson and guard Leon Robinson are in backup roles. Smith could also be used on punt returns. On defense, linebackers Hobie Holiday, Daryl Smith and Keyaron Fox, strong safety Sterling Green and cornerback Jonathan Cox are in the mix.