ATLANTA (August 16) — Like most football coaches, Georgia Tech’s George O’Leary would just as soon ignore the polls until after the season, but the fifth-year Rambling Wreck mentor understands that there are heightened expectations for his football team after last year’s success.
“I’d rather see those polls in November rather than September,” said O’Leary of his squad’s No. 11 ranking in the Associated Press preseason poll, “but they’re great for fan interest and keeping the fans abreast of what other people think about your football team.
“It’s good to have expectations. As coaches, the most pressure that we feel is the pressure we put on ourselves.”
Tech is also ranked 11th in the USA Today/ESPN poll, which is selected by a panel of coaches, as well as ninth by Sports Illustrated magazine. That represents Tech’s highest preseason ranking since 1991, when the Jackets were ranked sixth by USA Today and eighth by AP.
The Jackets are the consensus choice to finish second in the Atlantic Coast Conference, behind national No. 1 Florida State, whom Tech meets in Tallahassee on Sept. 11.
“We’re getting better each year,” continued O’Leary, the 1998 Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year. “You’d always like to have more players. I think this class that we’ve brought in has a lot of good football players who are going to help us in the future and maybe this year.”
Tech’s first practice in full pads was not a sharp one, according to O’Leary, who attributed the sluggishness to fatigue.
“It was the seventh practice, and their legs are starting to feel it,” said O’Leary. “There were too many mistakes, and the intensity wasn’t there for the last part of practice. Every period has to be intense. I spoke to them about it, and they understand, and tomorrow will be a better day.”
Still, O’Leary was pleased with the contact.
“We saw some good hits today on both sides of the ball, so we’ve got some players to work with.,” he said. “I like to see who hits people at the same speed that they run. If a kid runs 4.7, I want to see him hit somebody at 4.7.
“On the line of scrimmage, both sides had their moments. We’re showing more strength up front on defense, and on offense, we’ve got some weapons that can give people problems. It’s good for our defense to see that.”