Aug. 6, 2001
ATLANTA– – “For the first day, it should be high-tempo, and it was,” said Georgia Tech head coach George O’Leary as the 13th-ranked Yellow Jackets began practice Monday morning in unseasonably cool, overcast conditions at Rose Bowl Field. Tech will continue with three days of non-contact workouts before donning full gear for the first time in Thursday’s afternoon session.
“Everyone starts right from scratch in the preseason with the basics, especially these first three days,” said O’Leary, whose squad opens the season Aug. 26 against Syracuse in the Kickoff Classic. “I think the fundamental soundness of your football team is formed in these three days.
“The only thing I promise anybody is the first snap. They have to keep the job after that. That’s what competition is all about.”
As expected, quarterback George Godsey did take the first snap, and all subsequent repetitions with the first team. The senior from Tampa, Fla., is coming off off-season knee surgery following a junior campaign in which he passed for 2,906 yards and 23 touchdown while earning second-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference honors.
“George was released in June, and I feel very comfortable with where he is right now, and more importantly, so does the team,” said O’Leary, beginning his seventh season as head coach. “All the quarterbacks are doing a good job. There is a lot of competition there.”
Behind Godsey, sophomore Andy Hall (Cheraw, S.C.) earned the backup job in the spring after playing in six games last fall (4-for-16, 37 yards). Redshirt freshman Mark Logan (Greenwood, S.C.) or one of Tech’s three true freshmen signal callers–Damarius Bilbo (Moss Point, Miss.), Rahshan Johnson (Middleburg Heights, Ohio), and Dawan Landry (Ama, La.)–could also be in the mix for backup roles.
“I will travel three quarterbacks, and if the third guy is a freshman, so be it,” said O’Leary. “I have no problem with that, but it’s very hard to play at quarterback as a true freshman. So many things happen on the field that you can’t get them ready for.”
O’Leary was impressed with the athletic talents of the entire freshmen class in two days of practice last week, but now the intensity has been stepped up.
“I’m looking to see how many freshmen can keep up with the pace and the installation now that the varsity is here,” continued O’Leary. “I’m also looking at what the retention is from the spring and what do we need to put an emphasis on when we begin contact.”
With experienced players returning at most positions–a total of 18 starters and 35 of the top 44 players on offense and defense–much emphasis for the Jackets will be on developing depth.
The deepest positions on the team appear to be wide receiver and tailback. Headlined by senior Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.), who caught 59 passes for 963 yards and 10 touchdowns, Tech returns a quintet of pass catchers who combined for 143 receptions, 2,107 yards and 20 touchdowns. Also figuring prominently are juniors Kerry Watkins (LaPlace, La.), 26 catches, 480 yards, 6 TD, and Will Glover (Tampa, Fla.), 29-286-2, and sophomores Nate Curry (Miami, Fla.), 22-298-2, and Jonathan Smith (Argyle, Ga.), 7-80-0.
In the backfield, junior tailback Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.) is coming off a season in which he led the Jackets with 908 yards rushing and 12 scores. He and senior Sean Gregory (Homewood, Ill.) both rank in the Top 25 on Tech’s career rushing list, boasting a combined total of 2,677 career rushing yards. Junior Sidney Ford (Lindale, Ga.) also has experience, rushing for 246 yards and three touchdowns last season.
Tech’s defense is led by the defensive ends tandem of junior Greg Gathers (LaPlace, La.) and senior Nick Rogers (East Point, Ga.), who combined for 22 sacks last fall. Tech’s starting linebacker trio returns in tact, led by junior Recardo Wimbush (Blakely, Ga.), the Jackets’ active tackling leader with a total of 185 the last two seasons, while all-ACC junior free safety Jeremy Muyres (Stone Mountain, Ga.), who had a team-leading four interceptions, paces the secondary.
First-team all-ACC placekicker Luke Manget (Conyers, Ga.), who hit 12 of 16 field goals last fall and is perfect on extra points in his career, and two-year starting punter Dan Dyke (Winter Springs, Fla.), with a career average of 42.7 yards, give Tech a solid kicking game.