Aug. 20, 2001
ATLANTA – As a true freshman, he started all 12 games and led Georgia Tech with 91 tackles. As a sophomore, he started 12 more games and was the Yellow Jackets’ number two tackler with 94 hits. He’s Recardo Wimbush, the leader of a rapidly improving Tech defense.
Wimbush and his defensive teammates will show off their skills in the 2001 season opener on Sunday, Aug., 26, against Syracuse in the Kickoff Classic in East Rutherford, N.J. The game will be nationally televised by ABC (WSB, channel 2 in Atlanta).
The 1999 Tech defense, which featured four freshman starters including Wimbush, was a much beleaguered unit that surrendered more than 400 yards and 30 points a game. In 2000, that unit held opponents to just 19 points per game. More importantly, the defensive unit surrendered just 95 yards per game on the ground a year after allowing a robust 183 rushing yards per game. After allowing 26 rushing touchdowns in 1999, the defense stiffened to allow just six rushing TD’s in 2000, the lowest total since 1966.
“My first year the defense was kind of complicated, and the players didn’t learn it very quickly,” said the 6-1, 218-pound Wimbush. “The coaches changed some things my sophomore year and made it a lot more simple so everybody knows their assignments more completely. Now we are just going out every day and working hard, and we hope to continue to improve this season.”
With nine starters returning on defense from a year ago, the expectations for 2001 are even higher.
“I think we can be one of the top defenses in the country,” said Wimbush. “We just need to learn how to put people away. Last year we had teams down early in the game, but we would let them back in, which made the game a whole lot harder than it should have been. We are working even harder this year, and we are going to make sure that we put teams away early when we have the chance.”
A junior from Blakely, Ga., Wimbush has starred at the outside linebacker position since the day he arrived on campus, earning Freshman All-America honors in 1999 and honorable mention All-Atlantic Coast Conference accolades in 2000.
“I didn’t expect to lead the team in tackles as a freshman, and that’s something that you never expect coming out of high school,” said Wimbush. “It was fun, and I had a very exciting year. I made many mistakes as a freshman, but I think that I am getting better with each year.”
Getting better, indeed. In 2000, the speedy linebacker added 13 tackles for loss, three sacks, five passes broken up, one interception, one fumble caused and two fumble recoveries.
“I feel like I’ve improved over the years as far as knowing my assignment on each play,” he said. “My freshman year I was just running around trying to get to the ball. I think that I know what I am doing now, and my coverage is a lot better.”
Wimbush attributes much of his success to his position coach, defensive coordinator Ted Roof. A first-team All-ACC selection in 1985 and a member of the Georgia Tech Hall of Fame, Roof was the leader of the famed “Black Watch” defense of the mid-1980’s. He now passes on his love for Tech and football from his playing days to his current defensive pupils.
“It means a lot to play for Coach Roof,” said Wimbush. “He was an outstanding player at Georgia Tech, and he shows you what the game is all about. He has a great passion for the game, and that rubs off on the players.”
Wimbush and teammates have the unusual challenge of facing one of the nation’s top offensive teams on a daily basis. Every day in practice the defensive unit must try to contain the Tech offense, which has averaged better than 470 yards and 37 points per game over the last two years.
“We would rather see the other teams than face our offense,” laughed Wimbush. “Our offense is very complicated and very difficult to stop. We go out there every day in practice trying to beat them, because we know that if we can them we can stop anybody in the country.”
That’s the challenge that lies ahead. As the Yellow Jackets begin the 2001 season ranked No. 10 in the nation by the Associated Press, Wimbush and his teammates have a clear goal in mind.
“I want our team to win a national championship,” he said. “I want our offense and defense to be the best in the nation, and I feel like we can do that.” And with a potent offense and an ever-improving defense, those goals may well be possible.