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Breaking Tackles

Aug. 8, 2001

ATLANTA– – “I like the way they’re moving right now,” said Georgia Tech head coach George O’Leary as his 13th-ranked Yellow Jackets continue preseason drills.

“We’re putting more in, and I thought the tempo was really good for that fifth practice,” continued O’Leary following Wednesday’s morning workout. “We’ve just got to continue to getting reps for a lot of players, and hopefully there will be retention of what we’re installing.” Tech’s first practice in full pads is scheduled for Thursday evening at 5 p.m.

O’Leary talked about Tech’s progress in the passing game. The Yellow Jackets ranked 17th nationally in passing offense in 2000 with 271.1 yards per game and eighth in passing efficiency with a 145.8 rating. Starting quarterback George Godsey (Tampa, Fla.) returns after passing for 2,906 yards and 23 touchdowns.

“I think the timing is coming around,” said O’Leary, the 2000 Bobby Dodd Award winner as national coach of the year. “That’s usually the last thing to come, but it looks like we’re a little bit ahead in that area.”

Tech boasts one of the nation’s top receiver corps, led by Biletnikoff Award candidate Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.), who has averaged 64 catches, 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns for the last two seasons. Also returning juniors Kerry Watkins (LaPlace, La.) and Will Glover (Tampa, Fla.) and sophomores Nate Curry (Miami, Fla.) and Jonathan Smith (Argyle, Ga.), forming a quintet of pass catchers who combined for 143 receptions, 2,107 yards and 20 touchdowns last fall.

But O’Leary says there is still room for improvement.

“We’re putting an emphasis for everyone–receivers, backs and tight ends–on making something happen after the catch,” he said. “I thought we had too many single tacklers on ball catchers last year. I want them to be able to make some people miss, so we need to continue to work on that.”

In addition to the deep cast of receivers, Tech also welcomes back starting tight end Russell Matvay (Coram, N.Y.), who was one of seven players with 20 or more catches last season. Top tailback Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.) was also the team’s fourth-leading receiver with 26 receptions.

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