Yellow Jackets Smile for the Cameras

Aug. 4, 2001

ATLANTA– – “It begins for real on Monday when we start practice with the full squad,” said Georgia Tech head coach George O’Leary as the Yellow Jackets held their annual media day Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. Tech will conduct its first full-squad practices Monday at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Rose Bowl Field.

“Hopefully our kids did the things they needed to, conditioning-wise, over the summer, so that we can come out and continue to get better each day.”

O’Leary, whose squad is ranked 13th in the preseason coaches’ poll by ESPN/USA Today, addressed the preseason expectations for his football team, which returns 18 starters from last season’s 9-3 campaign.

“We have a chance to be a pretty good football team, but so does everyone else we play. I’ll be up-front and honest about things. We’re the best we’ve been since I’ve been here, but no one else is sitting still. Everyone else is getting better, too.

“I will say this. When I first took over the program, I thought we could play well and still lose. Now we’ve gotten to the point where if we play well, we are very competitive with every team we face.

“The biggest improvement is in the athletes we have,” he continued. “You can’t do it with mirrors, you need athletes out there. The teams that win consistently have great speed, and I think you have to match speed if you are going to win. The assistant coaches have done a great job of bringing the talent level in that can close the field. That’s really where we have improved tremendously, the speed and athleticism of our football team.”

Perhaps the question that O’Leary has been asked most often this summer is about the status of starting quarterback George Godsey (Tampa, Fla.), who passed for 2,906 yards and 23 touchdowns last fall but suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. O’Leary said he will be ready to take the first snap Monday.

“He was released in June, and he’s been running,” said O’Leary “He ran his seven-and-three-quarters (laps) in the 12-minute run this morning, which is pretty good. I feel very comfortable with where he is right now, and more importantly, so does the team. The key to any success is the chemistry of your quarterback with the team and the leadership he has.”

In contrast to previous years, Tech has seven quarterbacks in camp, including returning sophomore backup Andy Hall (Cheraw, S.C.), redshirt freshman Mark Logan (Greenwood, S.C.), true freshmen Damarius Bilbo (Moss Point, Miss.), Rahshan Johnson (Middleburg Heights, Ohio), and Dawan Landry (Ama, La.) and sophomore transfer A.J. Suggs (Powder Springs, Ga.).

“I’m only going to work with the guys that I think can help us win this year,” said O’Leary when asked if would be difficult to keep all seven happy. “It’s not a popularity contest. I’ll give everybody some reps the first couple of days, but that will be short-lived. You can’t get three quarterbacks ready for a game, much less seven. We have seven good candidates, obviously some with more game experience with others. I do think there’s a lot of competition there.”

O’Leary is looking forward to seeing how his talented freshman class will blend with the veterans.

“We had a good couple of days with the freshmen,” said O’Leary. “Whether they are going to help us this year remains to be seen, but it’s a good athletic group.

“It’s tough to say how many will contribute this year. Athletically, there are some who can contribute, but I don’t know how they are going to react when we get the varsity lined up. They all can run, but I’m more interested in contact speed.”

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