ATLANTA — With an eye toward immediate help at the skill positions, especially on defense and in the kicking game, Georgia Tech head football coach George O’Leary welcomes the 1999 freshmen class to campus on Friday, Aug. 6.
“The freshmen reporting is always an exciting time,” said O’Leary, the 1998 Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year after guiding Tech to a 10-2 record, a share of the conference title and a final No. 9 national ranking. “It’s exciting for the players to begin their college careers, and it’s exciting for us as coaches to begin to work with the players we’ve recruited.”
The 31 newcomers, including 23 scholarship student-athletes, will practice on Saturday (9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) and Monday (9:25 a.m. and 4 p.m.) and then go through academic orientation next Tuesday, Aug. 10, the day that the Tech veterans report. Following Media Day on Aug. 11, the first full-squad practice is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 12.
“I think you always expect freshmen to be better able to help right away in the skilled areas, because at those positions, athletic ability takes over rather than size and strength,” said O’Leary.
The Jackets signed two kickers-Parade magazine all-America Luke Manget (Conyers, Ga.) and Philip Newman (Marietta, Ga.)-and both will have a chance to make an immediate impact as Tech must replace last year’s starters at both punter and placekicker.
“There’s no question that we have to take a good look at the two scholarship kickers that we signed, Luke Manget and Philip Newman,” said O’Leary.
On defense, O’Leary said that a newcomer would be most likely to contribute in the secondary or at linebacker.
The class includes six defensive backs, led by Cory Collins (Egg Harbor Township, N.J.), the Northeast Defensive Player of the Year by SuperPrep magazine, and Jeremy Muyres (Stone Mountain, Ga.), a member of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “Super 11” in Georgia and the younger brother of Tech junior wide receiver Jon Muyres. The only junior college transfer in the class is also a defensive back in Algis Motiejunas (Scottsdale, Ariz.) of Glendale Community College. He is the younger brother of Tech’s former NCAA champions in the 4×400-meter relay, twins Tomas and Jonas Motiejunas.
Other top defensive signees include linebacker Recardo Wimbush (Blakely, Ga.) and defensive end Greg Gathers (LaPlace, La.), both honorable mention all-Americas by USA Today.
On offense, where a freshman is most likely to contribute as a running back or wide receiver, the Jackets boast four USA Today all-Americas in running backs Mike Kitchen (Lebanon, Pa.) and Sidney Ford (Lindale, Ga.), wide receiver Anthony Lawston (Baltimore, Md.) and offensive lineman Raymond Blake (Walthourville, Ga.). Running backs William Glover (Tampa, Fla.) and Jermaine Hatch (Baton Rouge, La.) are also highly-regarded prospects.
Tech’s freshmen class includes the sons of two of the top players in Rambling Wreck history in cornerback Eric Lavette (Powder Springs, Ga.), the son of all-time leading rusher Robert Lavette, and running back Kelley Rhino (Smyrna, Ga.), whose father, Randy Rhino, is the only three-time first-team all-America in school history.
Three additional 1999 signees-quarterback Brian Camp (Dublin, Ohio), split end Roderick Middleton (Bonneau, S.C.) and defensive end Fred Wright (Lehigh Acres, Fla.)-enrolled last spring and will report with the veterans on Aug. 10.