Aug. 5, 2004
Despite a 30-minute rain delay, the Georgia Tech football team held its first practice Thursday at Rose Bowl Field. Earlier in the day, head coach Chan Gailey and several Tech veterans met with the media.
Georgia Tech Head Coach Chan Gailey
August 5, 2004 – Georgia Tech Media Day
What are your thoughts on the season that P.J. Daniels had last year?
“My first thought is he [P.J. Daniels] deserves all the recognition he gets. It is one of the great stories in college football. He has worked to get there. Nothing has been given to him; nothing’s been handed to him on a silver platter. He has earned what he’s gotten. He earned every yard last year and he ran hard. I hope he gets some preseason stuff and some accolades and I hope he goes out and has a better season this year.
“He is one of those guys who gets stronger as the game goes on. So if you limit him too much, you wind up sometimes not seeing the best that he has. But at the same time we have to realize, we don’t want to beat him up too bad and we don’t want to subject him to too much. I think this year we have some people in place to maybe give him a blow and be productive.
Is Chris Woods one of those guys?
“I know he [Chris Woods] made great strides from last season through spring practice. Now we are going to wait and see if that carries on through the season, but we anticipate that and we anticipate that he will be the guy that goes in there and gives P.J. a blow, if not them being on the field at the same time at some point.
He has excellent quickness and speed. He’s not the big punishing back that P.J. is, but he has excellent quickness and speed. He made more big plays in spring practice than any other player we had.
That’s him. That’s not a show. That’s who he is. He believes that. He believes he’s been given a gift from God, but it takes everyone to do something great. That’s not a guard. He’s not saying it for show.
Rebuilding linebacker position?
First of all that’s probably our most difficult assignment this year. The defense did a great job in the spring getting people into position to have a chance to be successful. The people that we have in place are Gerris [Wilkinson] at Mike and Chris [Reis] at Sam and I don’t know who at Will, but we’ll see who that ends up being. I think Gerris and Chris are solid performers who have done it on the field in big ball games. We have knowledge that they can be successful football players and are successful football players, but how quickly can they tie into the reads and the skills that it takes to play linebacker at this level is going to be a close call for them and for us as a football team.
Wilkinson’s adjustment to middle linebacker?
“I thought he [Wilkinson] would make the adjustment. I thought it would be Sam, I didn’t know it would be to Mike. It’s turned out that Mike has been the best fit for him and our football team.
“There are a lot of similar responsibilities on some coverages and some fronts for the strong safety and the sam linebacker. We all know how great a job Jon Tenuta and his staff do in getting people into position to be successful. That’s what they will do. They will tie it in to make those guys successful.
Depth at linebacker?
“No, there is not any depth right now. We have some guys who have been in ballgames, but no one is proven. T. [Tabugbo] Anyansi is a guy that has played in games but doesn’t have a great deal of depth. We have two young guys vying for the will position, Nick Moore and KaMichael Hall. Then after that there will be a lot of young guys that we are depending on.
“There will be plenty of reps, don’t worry about that. There will be plenty of reps between now and the first ball game. You can never simulate game experience. That’s the thing. They’re going to have to get, for lack of a better word, baptized by fire.
Is the program where you want it to be in your third season?
“I don’t like to compare it to where you want to be because the only thing you can compare it to is winning a championship and we haven’t done that. So we are short of where we want to be. I believe we are getting better every year. Now, the gap. I don’t know what that gap is. Sometimes you’re six plays away from closing that gap pretty closely, sometimes you’re 30 plays from closing that gap pretty closely. It depends on what games you are talking about, how many close games you had, could you have won this, could you avoided that loss. We had about three or four games that could have thrown into that category last year. All of a sudden it is totally different. We could have been sitting up there with nine or ten wins instead of seven. So I think you have to look at everything. We are not were we need to be depth-wise. Our first 22 are pretty good football players, but we have to stay healthy, we have got to have guys come on at specific positions, linebacker, receiver, offensive line in a hurry and play well.
Decision to put freshman Kevin Tuminello at center?
“You are always making decisions about what’s best for the team. When we were going through spring practice, Leon [Robinson] was not there. We were saying, `are we better off with someone else at guard and Andy [Tidwell-Neal] at center? Or are we better with Andy at guard and Kevin [Tuminello] at center?’ We kept letting those guys play and see who performs and the best performers and best unit ended up being Kevin at center and Andy at guard. You would like to have someone else with more experience to put in there, but we didn’t. That’s why our offensive line spot has been our biggest lack of depth spot over the past few years.
He [Tuminello] will have to rely on those two guys on either side of him to be successful this year. But the thing about it is, he is a very intelligent football player. He understands the game. He comes from a football family. His brothers played center so he understands the game very well. I think he will be able to know what to do. The key is being physical enough to do it as a red-shirt freshman in the middle of the offensive line.
Competition for ACC bowl slots?
I would be lying to you if I said it hadn’t entered my mind. But what it does is tell us exactly what we need to do. I think that if you’re in the top two or three teams in the ACC, you don’t have to worry about it. So the goal is get there, then it’s not an issue. So our goal is to be one of the top two or three and be in a position to win the ACC and then go from there. The other part is not an issue.
What do you expect from Reggie Ball this year?
I think this will be an interesting year for Reggie [Ball]. He did some good things last year and he did some things not so well last year. He played well early and then played kind of up and down late in the season. He did make great progress I felt like from a maturity level from the end of the Humanitarian Bowl game to the end of spring practice. Now, can that continue and him continue to make the jump and continue to perform and play well and be consistent. That’s one of the things we have talked about with him, is being consistent. He has to learn to cross every `t’ and dot every `i’ just the way it needs to be done. If he can do that, then he has enough grit, talent and toughness to take the next step. And we will see if he can handle it.
“I think we turned the ball over too many times in some ball games. He started acting more like a freshman then. He got flustered at times. He got frustrated at times. That can’t happen. The one thing you can say about Reggie Ball is he competed every snap. He is an emotional player, he gets after it, he wants to win, and that’s what allows him to be a successful football player. He knows the game and he competes every snap.
With only one senior on defense, how much will you rely on James Butler for leadership?
I think James [Butler] is a great leader. He is not a vocal leader. He is a leader by example. The good thing is I think we have some underclassmen that have proven that they can be leaders and go play and back up the talk. I think that is going to help us with leadership on the defensive side of the ball. You have Eric Henderson and Travis Parker. Gerris is another guy who doesn’t talk much, but leads by example. Dawan Landry is a pretty emotional player. We have some guys that play the game the way it needs to be played. Kicking game?
I wish I could tell you something about the punting situation. We had two guys go through spring practice and the third guy kicked the best of all of them in the spring game. Three guys sitting there, and we signed Kyle Belcher out of Albany, Ga., we told him to work on punting. He was a combination punter/kicker. We will find out in the next couple of weeks who our punter will be. I do not know.
ACC proposal for five years of eligibility?
I think it’s smart. I think it’s smart in all ways. It’s taking most young men five years to graduate anyway. I think they want to play that year. In their freshman year, we try to get them on special teams, and he would like to play, but he doesn’t want to waist a year on 20-30 plays. But 30-50 plays might be good to get him some experience. You are always torn in there. I think it would be good for him. I think it would be good for the school. I think it’s a win-win all the way around, which is why the NCAA doesn’t want to do it.
Thoughts on red-shirting?
I have changed since the first day I have stepped on campus. My thought is you go play the best people, whoever it is, then you get to the sixth or seventh ball game and if guys haven’t played, then you start thinking, let’s be smart here.
“I think that some guys are more ready to play. Some guys are 19 when they walk onto campus and they are ready to play. Some guys aren’t. I think you have to do it that way. You have to play the best people. Then whatever happens, if you can red-shirt a couple of people here and there, then you try to get it done if you can. I think depth is one of the biggest issues.
Reggie as an emotional player?
If [his emotions] overtake some good judgment sometimes probably, then it gets in the way. I don’t think it got in the way of judgment. He is just an on-edge player. That’s just the way he is. You don’t see a lot of quarterbacks like that. So it’s something nobody knows how to react too. I have only been around a couple of players like that in my career. And you do have to talk to him about it because what it hurts is consistency more than anything. I try to get him to be more consistent, but I don’t want him to be less emotional. I just want him to be more consistent.
What are looking for at the “will” linebacker position?
“We are looking for someone to separate themselves. They have to perform, be reckless, and make plays at that position. Everybody is a different individual player. You don’t try to go out and make clone players. You try to make sure to take their abilities and make sure they can do what needs to be done to be successful at the Will linebacker position.
Cornerback positions with Houston, Davis and Scott returning?
“I think we will look in the early part of the season and see what is the best scenario. I think we will start with Dennis [Davis] being the nickel and Kenny [Scott] being the wide side corner and Reuben [Houston] being the boundary corner. But don’t hold me to that. Reuben played the nickel last year and did some really good things. We may find that it may be better to stick them there.
“The guy that made the biggest jump was Salih Besirevic. He really made a big jump in spring practice. He really changed tremendously. His body has changed from January to now he looks like a totally different guy. He worked very hard to be in a position to be a starter this off-season.
“We had to move Kyle to left tackle because he has been our most consistent tackle. We wanted to move him to left tackle. Then we had to find the best way to handle center/guard, which we talked about earlier.
Do you use the success of the basketball team as motivation?
“I talked to our football team about the success of our basketball team. I think our guys know that you thought they would be awful last year, and we still went to a bowl, so they know you are not right. The thing I’m trying to impress upon our guys is how vitally important every game is. We found out the hard way last year. Every game is so vitally important. I have tried to tell them that every game is a playoff game in football. We are not like basketball, baseball and volleyball and some others, where you can finish third or fourth in the conference, second or third in the conference tournament and still get to the tournament and still play for the national championship eventually. That doesn’t happen in football. You finish third or fourth in the conference you aren’t playing for any kind of championship.
Nate Curry, wide receiver
On the schedule
“As far as Miami and Virginia Tech coming in to the conference, we welcome the competition. It makes the ACC that more prominent. I feel like we have if not the toughest, one of the toughest conferences in the country.”
On the ACC
“It’s a lot tougher. You can’t tell who’s going to win week in and week out. No one is guaranteed a win. Everybody is coming up. Wake Forest is coming up, Duke is coming up, North Carolina is coming up, and you still have those top teams like NC State, Maryland, Florida State, plus Miami and Virginia Tech Without the extra bowl bids, competition is that much greater. There’s no telling who is going to do what.”
On the preseason poll
“As always we don’t pay any heed to what they say. We have to believe amongst our team, what we can do ourselves. We know we worked hard in the offseason and we know what we have to do. All that matters is that group of people in that locker room when everything is said and done.”
Eric Henderson, defensive end
On the preseason predictions
“We really don’t look in to that. We just go out and work hard every day because we’re used to being the underdogs. We just try to stay focused and keep a positive attitude on things and just try and execute what the coaches have lined up for us. We look forward to practice everyday.”
“To be honest with you, I’ve never been around a bunch of guys that have really looked forward to the season like this team does. Everyone has been working hard, we’ve been sweating together and it has been a really hard summer and we’re just looking forward to the season.”
On the mentality of the team
“Last year we were hungry, but I feel that this year we’re even hungrier. I’m surprised to see how hungry some of these young guys are and how they are responding to things.”
On Reggie Ball and P.J. Daniels
“They’re leaders. Obviously your quarterback is the leader of the offense. Both of them work hard and they look forward to games. They both love the sport and you can’t do anything but stick beside guys like that.”
Kyle Wallace, tackle
“I think we’re pretty solid at all the positions right now. We have to develop more depth, but I think everyone on the line is talented.”
On Kevin Tuminello
“He’s really strong for how young he is. He has tremendous upper body strength. I feel like that is definitely one of his strengths, how strong he is.”
Gerris Wilkinson, linebacker
On gaining weight
“Last year when they told me that I was moving [to defensive end], I tried to concentrate on gaining weight. It was really tough to gain weight during camp, because they told me that I was moving right before camp. Since I could not gain weight, I just tried to maintain it. Throughout the season, coach [Jon] Tenuta just asked me to maintain my weight.”
On moving back to linebacker “I feel like more confident after playing every game last year at defensive end. I’m more relaxed out there. I have to work on some of my pass rushing, but I feel good being back there and look forward to camp getting underway.”
Chris Reis, linebacker
On the preseason poll
“I like it. They did this last year and we came out and shocked a lot of people. I don’t mind people underestimating us, I kind of enjoy it because it takes the pressure off of us and puts it on them. We’re real focused right now. We’re not worrying about what some preseason poll says, only on what we need to get accomplished.”
On the linebacker switch
“A, I’m playing…B, it’s just a whole new level right there. Coming on down the line, taking on the run more and having a lot more responsibilities. I only got to have four practices in the spring, so it’s still kind of new to me, but I’m really looking forward to it and excited about the season.”
On watching film from last year’s corps
“Definitely. I watched what those guys [Key] Fox (Kansas City Chiefs) and Daryl Smith (Jacksonville Jaguars)] did last year and studied what they did. I worked on my quickness and my hands. I know this summer got me ready to play.
James Butler, free safety
On accomplishing more this year than last year “We return a lot of players and there’s a lot more experience. Last year we had a lot of young guys at key positions and now they have a year under their belt. That just gives us more confidence.”
On lessons learned
“I can’t worry about what people say about us. As long as your coaches and your team are focused on what they’re doing and believe in each other, you can achieve anything.”
On the expanded ACC
“It makes it a whole lot more competitive, but at the same time, at the end it makes it all that more sweeter when you win. We’ve been working hard during the summer to prepare us for a tougher conference.”
P.J. Daniels, running back
“Anything can happen. I just play my game, up my game like I did this year. I never think that I’m the No. 1 tailback, rather just continue to work hard and work to get better.
“I have confidence in myself and my team, but I want to work to get better each day.”
On last year’s accomplishments
“All that is, is encouragement. That’s how we look at it. We know that we have to play as a team and work hard and continue to do the things we have been doing.”
Andy Tidwell-Neal, Guard
On P.J.’s accolades last season
“It’s pretty much everyday with P.J. [Daniels]. He’s a very enthusiastic person and he lets us know everyday how much he appreciates us. Whether it is on the field or off the field. We hang out quite often and we see each other all the time. Being around P.J. is just a treat everyday.”
On replacing holes on the offensive line
“I think it’ll be fine. Every year, a lot of college football teams have somebody they have to replace on the line of scrimmage. It’s been that way ever since I’ve been here. We’ve got guys that have to step up and that’s a fact of life. I have a lot of confidence in Salih [Besirevic], Kevin [Tuminello] and Kyle [Wallace] and the rest of the guys.”
Reuben Houston, cornerback
On having James Butler at safety
“Having James back there is like having yourself behind you. We’re never on two different pages. Me personally, I always know that James and I are going to be on the same page. I know that I’m not going to make any wrong reads and I know that he’s not, so it’s like having yourself behind you.”
Reggie Ball, quarterback
On his season last year
“I might have surprised some people, especially coming out and starting that first game as a true freshman. But last year was mediocre. We have to step it up and set us apart from last year.
“I’m not saying the whole season was mediocre, just my performance personally. I could’ve done a lot better. There were a couple of games that I could have won for us. I could’ve led the team better and made some better decisions. But that’s what I have to do this season.”
On summer workouts
“I worked on footwork and trapping my elbow a little bit. That was basically what I spent the offseason working on.”
On the feeling of the upcoming season
“I can’t really explain it. It’s just like everybody is just so anxious. We’re all ready to get out there. I think a couple of player’s on this team stepped out and played big last year and people around the nation noticed them. So we’re ready to get out there and prove that we can compete.”