Aug. 22, 2003
Georgia Tech kicks off the 2003 football season with a nationally-televised contest at Brigham Young on Thursday, Aug. 28 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. Tech and the Cougars square off at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
“It’s a beautiful place but a very tough place to play,” said Tech’s second-year head coach Chan Gailey of the trip to Provo. Gailey is very familiar with that part of the country from his days as an assistant coach at the Air Force Academy (1979-82) and with the Denver Broncos (1985-90).
Gailey’s Yellow Jackets are coming off a 7-6 season in 2002, which ended with a school record-tying sixth consecutive bowl game. BYU is coming off its first losing season since 1973 after posting a 5-7 mark last fall under Gary Crowton.
“I think BYU is disappointed in their season last year, so there is hunger in their program,” said Gailey. “They have a lot veteran players who are confident that they can bring their program back to a winning season.
“BYU has always been known for their offense, and this year they have an entirely new defense, playing an attacking 3-3 scheme.”
Georgia Tech returns all-star candidates in Hugh Reilly, center, Nat Dorsey, tackle, and Jonathan Smith, wide receiver, on offense and linebackers Daryl Smith and Keyaron Fox on defense, but the biggest question for the Yellow Jackets is at quarterback, where Gailey has yet to name a starter.
Senior A.J. Suggs, who started all 13 games last season, and true freshman Reggie Ball are the primary candidates, with true freshman Patrick Carter also getting a look. Suggs passed for 2,242 yards last fall but threw 15 interceptions against 11 touchdown passes, and Gailey is seeking more consistent play at the position. Ball, an athletic, 5-11, 192-pounder from Stephenson High School in suburban Atlanta, has displayed poise and play-making ability.
Smith, a senior, and junior Nate Curry will be the primary targets for whomever wins the quarterback job. Smith is Tech’s top returning skill player after catching 36 passes for 430 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 118 yards on just 19 carries last season.
In the backfield, Gailey expects to use a “tailback by committee” approach, with sophomore P.J. Daniels expected to start and be spelled by sophomores Ajenavi Eziemefe and Chris Woods, a transfer from Morris Brown. Daniels rushed for 255 yards and two touchdowns on 72 attempts last fall, while Eziemefe had 282 yards and two scores on 70 carries.
The strength of the offense should be the offensive line, anchored by the Dave Rimington Trophy candidate Reilly, a 6-4, 285-pound senior. The unit returns four starters, including Dorsey and junior Kyle Wallace at the tackles, and junior left guard Leon Robinson. Senior John Paul Foschi adds a veteran presence at tight end.
The heart of the Tech defense is the senior linebacker trio of Fox, Daryl Smith and Ather Brown. Smith is Tech’s top returning tackler after collecting 99 hits with five sacks and 15 tackles for loss, while Fox was right behind him with 92 tackles and 13 tackles for loss. Brown is a steady veteran who was a starter as a freshman.
Senior cornerback Jonathan Cox is the returning starters in the secondary, but new safeties James Butler and Dawan Landry have performed very well in the preseason. Tech’s youthful defensive line features returning starters Eric Henderson and Travis Parker, but both are sophomores.
THE SERIES VERSUS BRIGHAM YOUNG
Georgia Tech and Brigham Young are meeting for just the second time, following last year’s 28-19 victory by the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta.
Tech is making its first appearance ever in the state of Utah, but the Jackets have ventured west of the Rocky Mountains each of the last two years, travelling to the 2001 Seattle Bowl and the 2002 Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif.
LAST MEETING WITH THE COUGARS
In 2002 in Atlanta, Tony Hollings rushed for 189 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter, to help Georgia Tech rally past Brigham Young, 28-19, at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. Hollings finished the game as the nation’s leading rusher but sustained a knee injury that proved to be season-ending. He scored his second touchdown on a two-yard run with 13:08 left, capping a 70-yard drive that gave the Jackets the lead for good, and he added an insurance touchdown with five minutes to play.
Brigham Young head coach Gary Crowton is a former Georgia Tech assistant. Crowton spent one year at Tech, serving as quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator on Bill Lewis’ staff in 1994. BYU strength coach Jay Omer served in the same capacity at Tech from 1993-2000.
Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey is 1-0 against Brigham Young as a head coach after last year’s Tech win. Gailey also coached against BYU as an assistant coach at the Air Force Academy, where he coached from 1979-82. The Falcons were 1-1 against the Cougars during Gailey’s tenure, including a 39-38 win at BYU in 1982.
Both Gailey and Crowton have backgrounds in the National Football League. Gailey served as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys (1998-99) as well as an assistant coach with the Miami Dolphins (2000-01 ), Pittsburgh Steelers (1994-97) and Denver Broncos (1985-90). Crowton was the offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears (1999-00).
TECH IN SEASON OPENERS
Georgia Tech has a record of 76-30-4 in season openers, including a 45-3 victory over Vanderbilt in last year’s opener. The Yellow Jackets have won four straight openers, last losing the opening game in 1998, when Tech fell to Boston College, 41-31, but went on to a 10-2 season.
Aug. 28 is not the earliest that the Yellow Jackets have opened the season. Tech has twice played in the Kickoff Classic, which was held on Aug. 26, 2001 (d. Syracuse, 13-7) and Aug. 28, 1991 (l. Penn State, 34-22).
The last time Tech opened the season on a Thursday night was 1994, when the Jackets fell to seventh-ranked Arizona, 19-14.
HEAD COACH Chan Gailey
A 29-year veteran of the coaching profession, Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey is in his second season at the helm of the Tech program. Last year, he became just the second head coach in Tech history to lead the Yellow Jackets to a bowl game in his first season. His record at Tech is 7-6, while his overall mark is 31-17 in his fifth season as a college head coach. He also spent two years (1998-99) as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
This season, Gailey will also handle Tech’s play-calling responsibilities on offense. Quarterbacks coach Patrick Nix serves as running game coordinator, while wide receivers coach Buddy Geis is the passing game coordinator.
FRESHMEN IN THE LINEUP
A number of true freshmen could see action for the Yellow Jackets when they open the season against Brigham Young.
True freshman defensive tackle Mansfield Wrotto is expected to be in the starting lineup for the Yellow Jackets. True freshman Reggie Ball is battling senior A.J. Suggs for the starting quarterback job, with a decision possibly not announced until game time.
Several other true freshmen could get on the field, either as backups or on special teams, including cornerback Kenny Scott, linebackers Philip Wheeler, KaMichael Hall and Nick Moore, safety Joe Gaston, center Kevin Tuminello and defensive ends Joe Anoai and Adamm Oliver.
SIX STRAIGHT BOWL BERTHS
Georgia Tech has tied a school record by earning six consecutive bowl berths, a first for the program since the 1950s and the halcyon days of legendary head coach Bobby Dodd, who guided the Yellow Jackets to six consecutive bowl games-winning them all-from 1951-56.
On their current streak, the Yellow Jackets have played in the 1997 Carquest Bowl, the 1999 and 2000 Toyota Gator Bowls, the 2000 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the 2001 Seattle Bowl, and the 2002 Silicon Valley Football Classic.
Georgia Tech, which has the nation’s third best bowl game winning percentage (20-11, .645), is one of just 13 schools in the nation that have played in a bowl game each of the last six years.
TRANSFERS MAKE IMPACT
A pair of transfers should make an impact for the Yellow Jackets this fall. Running back Chris Woods and tackle Kenton Johnson came to Tech from Morris Brown, a former NCAA Division I-AA school in Atlanta that discontinued its football program.
Both players are listed in the two-deep as backups. Johnson, 6-6 and 310 pounds, is Tech’s backup left tackle behind Nat Dorsey.
Woods, a 5-10, 185-pound sophomore, should see action at tailback. Last fall at Morris Brown, he carried 63 times for 390 yards and five touchdowns while catching 16 passes for 198 yards and one score. Most of his production came in the latter part of the season, including games against Savannah State Florida (Rushing 6-100, 1 TD; Receiving 1-5), Atlantic (Rushing 12-44, 1 TD; Receiving 3-52), Grambling (Rushing 16-116, 2 TD; Receiving 5-55), and Norfolk State (Rushing 17-108, 1 TD; Receiving 6-76, 1 TD).
NEW FACES IN KICKING GAME
Some of the biggest shoes to fill on this year’s Georgia Tech team are in the kicking game, where the Yellow Jackets graduated record-setting placekicker Luke Manget, steady punters Dan Dyke and Chris Morehouse, and all-conference return specialist Kelley Rhino. On other hand, veterans return in two key special teams positions in long snapper Andrew Economos and holder Hal Higgins.
At placekicker, senior Dan Burnett steps into the starting role after serving as Manget’s backup the last three years. He is a perfect 8-for-8 on extra points but has yet to make his first field goal. He actually did hit a three-pointer last year against North Carolina, but it was nullified by a penalty when the Jackets elected to go for a touchdown. Burnett takes over for a four-year starter and three-time all-ACC selection who was a perfect 160-for-160 on extra points in his career and is the leading scorer in Tech history.
At punter, Higgins is likely to get the nod over junior Andy Thomson. Neither has ever punted in a college game.
Senior wide receiver Jonathan Smith take over as punt returner in place of Rhino, who is Tech’s career leader in punt returns and yardage. Primary kickoff return threat Kerry Watkins also graduated and will be replaced this season by Dennis Davis and Kenny Scott.
RIGHT ON TRACK
Three members of the Georgia Tech secondary also compete for the Rambling Wreck track team.
Junior cornerback Dennis Davis earned all-ACC honors last winter with a second-place finish in the 200 meters (21.84) at the 2003 ACC Indoor Championships. He also placed fifth in the 60 meters (6.85). His top 100-meter time was 10.73 during the 2002 outdoor season.
Sophomore cornerback Reuben Houston was an all-ACC performer in 2002 with a second-place finish in the indoor triple jump. He jumped 49 feet, 9.25 inches at the 2003 ACC Indoor Championships to place fifth.
Redshirt freshman cornerback I-Perfection Harris placed fifth in the long jump at the 2003 ACC Indoor Championships with a leap of 23 feet, 6.25 inches.
GATHERS ON HOLD
The return of all-America defensive end Greg Gathers is on hold as the fifth-year senior has not been medically cleared for contact. Georgia Tech’s career leader in quarterback sacks and tackles for loss, Gathers missed most of the 2002 season due to a kidney ailment. He was granted a medical hardship for last season and still hopes to return to action this fall.
CENTER OF ATTENTION
The anchor of Georgia Tech’s offensive line is senior center Hugh Reilly. The 6-4, 285-pounder is a three-year starter, including one season at guard before moving to center last season.
Reilly was tabbed to the preseason watch list for the Dave Rimington Award, presented annually to the nation’s top center.
DANIELS WALKS INTO OPPORTUNITY
A former walk-on, sophomore P.J. Daniels is now Georgia Tech’s top tailback. Daniels first earned some playing time last fall and was named ACC Rookie of the Week after rushing for a career-best 95 yards in Tech’s win over Virginia. He was placed on scholarship last January.
Daniels, whose given name is Prince, is backed up by two more sophomores, Ajenavi “Ace” Eziemefe and transfer Chris Woods.
NFL HEAD COACHING EXPERIENCE
Georgia Tech’s second-year head coach Chan Gailey is a veteran with 29 years of coaching experience, including 14 years in the National Football League. Gailey spent two years (1998-99) as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, compiling an 18-14 regular-season record and leading the Cowboys to the playoffs both years, including the NFC Eastern Division title in 1998.
Gailey is one of nine current head coaches in NCAA Division I-A who have previous head coaching experience in the NFL. The others are Rich Brooks (Kentucky), Pete Carroll (Southern California), Mike Riley (Oregon State), Al Groh (Virginia), Lou Holtz (South Carolina), June Jones (Hawaii), John Mackovic (Arizona) and John Robinson (UNLV).
Of those nine, only Gailey, and Robinson (Los Angeles Rams) have led a team to the NFL playoffs and compiled a winning NFL record. Mackovic (Kansas City Chiefs in 1986) also made one playoff appearance but did not post a winning career record, while Groh (New York Jets in 2001) had a winning record in his one NFL season but did not reach the playoffs.
THURSDAY NIGHT LIVE
For the 11th year in a row, Georgia Tech will participate in ESPN’s Thursday night, national television package. This fall, the Yellow Jackets have two Thursday night games. Tech opens the season at Brigham Young on Thursday, Aug. 28, and then the Jackets host Maryland on Thursday, Oct. 23.
Georgia Tech has been selected to play in more ESPN Thursday night games-16-than any other school in the nation.
Tech has a 7-7 record when playing in ESPN’s Thursday night games, and all but three of the games have been in Atlanta. Two of Tech’s last five Thursday night games have gone to overtime.
Maryland has been Tech’s most frequent Thursday night opponent as this year’s game will be the sixth such affair between the two schools since 1995. Maryland has won the last two Thursday night contests to take a 3-2 lead.
In addition to the 14 ESPN dates, the Jackets have also played two other Thursday prime-time games in recent years, defeating Virginia, 31-27, in 1983 on TBS and falling to Arizona, 20-19, in 1995 on Prime. Counting Thanksgiving, Tech’s record on Thursday is 28-19-2.
ESPN THURSDAY NIGHT GAMESYear Opponent Result1991 #20 Virginia hW 24-211993 #25 Virginia hL 35-141994 #7 Arizona hL 19-141995 #16 Maryland hW 31-31996 Duke hW 48-221996 at Maryland aL 13-101997 #5 North Carolina hL 16-131998 at Clemson aW 24-211999 Maryland hW 49-312000 at NC State aL 30-23 (ot)2000 Virginia hW 35-02001 Maryland hL 20-17 (ot)2001 North Carolina hW 28-212002 at Maryland aW 34-102003 at Brigham Young Aug. 282003 Maryland Oct. 23
Ivery’s father, Eddie Lee Ivery, Sr., is one of the top running backs in Rambling Wreck annals. The elder Ivery, who is now on the Tech strength and conditioning staff, is the third-leading rusher in Yellow Jacket history with 3,517 yards from 1975-78. He set the then-NCAA single-game rushing record with 356 yards against Air Force in 1978 and went on to play 10 years with the Green Bay Packers. The younger Ivery is out for the season with a knee injury.
Brezina is the son of longtime Atlanta Falcons linebacker Greg Brezina, who played collegiately at Houston and then played for the Falcons from 1968-69 and 1971-79, including a Pro Bowl selection in 1969.
True freshman Patrick Carter is the younger brother of New York Giants wide receiver Tim Carter.