July 30, 2002
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech’s 2002 football season gets underway as the Yellow Jacket freshmen report to campus Friday afternoon and then begin practice Saturday.
The Tech freshmen class, including 15 scholarship players, will practice Saturday and Monday and then participate in academic orientation before the Rambling Wreck varsity players report on Aug. 6. The first full squad practice for the Yellow Jackets is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 8.
Saturday’s freshmen practice at Rose Bowl Field is scheduled for 5:45 p.m.
First-year head coach Chan Gailey, whose Yellow Jackets open the season by hosting Vanderbilt on Aug. 31 at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field, looks forward to beginning his first season on the Flats.
“I think everybody looks forward to the season,” said Gailey, a 28-year coaching veteran who was named Tech’s 11th head coach last winter. “I’m not sure anybody, player or coach, looks forward to two-a-days, but it’s an exciting time because everyone looks forward to Saturdays.”
Tech returns 16 starters from last year’s team that went 8-5, including a victory in the Seattle Bowl, but Gailey mentioned a couple of areas where freshmen might be able to add depth, including the defensive secondary, defensive line and possibly wide receiver.
“We have team needs in some areas rather than targeting specific players,” he said. “We need to shore up our safety position, where our depth is not as good as some other places on our football team. On the defensive line, our depth is limited. At receiver there might be a spot for someone to take.”
In those areas Gailey noted, candidates could include safeties Chris Reis (Roswell, Ga.) and Kingi McNair (Pelahatchie, Miss.), Brad Brezina (Greensboro, Ga.), Zeb McHargue (Gray, Ga.), Terron Pullen (Wrightsville, Ga.) and Michael Matthews (Cincinnati, Ohio) on the defensive line, and receivers LeKeldrick Bridges and Xavier McGuire, both from Dallas, Texas.
“But we don’t create opportunities,” said Gailey. “They make them, so we’ll see who wants to make their own opportunities.”
This year’s freshmen class is relatively small following the graduation of only 13 seniors from last year’s squad. The group of scholarship freshmen includes four linemen, four defensive backs, three running backs, two receivers, one tight end and one placekicker. Five of the 15 are from Georgia, and six other states are represented, including three from Texas, two from Ohio, two from Florida, one from Louisiana, one from Mississippi and one from New York. In addition, six freshmen walk-ons are expected to join the squad.
“We have such a small freshman class with only about 20 on the field, so it will really just be an orientation period for them rather than practice sessions,” said Gailey. “We want to see where they are conditioning-wise, give them a lot of mental reps and individual work, but it will be hard to do any team or seven-on-seven work because of the limited numbers.
“They have a lot to learn in a short time, and it’s not easy. There’s not much we can find out about them in these few practices. You don’t even really find out much about them in the first few days with the varsity. You have to wait until the pads come on.”
IMPORTANT DATESAug. 2, Freshmen ReportAug. 3, 5, Freshmen PracticeAug. 6, Varsity ReportAug. 7, MEDIA DAY, 5 P.M. (MEDIA ONLY)Aug. 8, First full squad practicesAug. 16, Kickoff CelebrationAug. 17, Fan Photo Day, 4 p.m.Aug. 31, Season Opener vs. Vanderbilt (6 p.m., Bobby Dodd Stadium)