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Healthy Running Backs Create Competition, Depth in Tech Backfield

Aug. 8, 2002

Chan Gailey’s first preseason practice at Georgia Tech also marked the first time that the Yellow Jackets’ first-year head coach has been able to see a full complement of healthy running backs in the Tech backfield.

The Yellow Jackets, who open the season by hosting Vanderbilt Aug. 31 at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field, began full-squad practices with a two-hour workout in shorts Thursday morning at Rose Bowl Field. The first day in full pads is Monday.

“There was really a good group of running backs out there today, and they all did a good job,” said Gailey. That was a positive. We’ll have great competition there and great depth, which is all you can ask for right now.”

The loss of workhorse Joe Burns, Tech’s top rusher the last two years, as well as his backup, Sean Gregory, created openings in the backfield. Junior Tony Hollings ( Jeffersonville, Ga.) stepped forward in the latter part of spring practice as the top candidate to replace Burns, but converted safety has not played on offense since high school.

Tech’s most experienced back is senior Sidney Ford (Lindale, Ga.), who Tech’s second-leading rusher last fall with 290 yards and one touchdown, but he missed much of spring practice with rib injury. He is healthy now, as is sophomore Jimmy Dixon (Arlington, Texas), who rushed for four touchdowns in 2001, but also missed a large chunk of practice time in the spring with a sprained foot.

Bolstering the depth and competition is the return of junior Jermaine Hatch (Baton Rouge, La.), who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Senior Gordon Clinkscale (Doraville, Ga.) and redshirt freshman P.J. Daniels (Houston, Texas) are also in the mix.

Tech has two freshmen running backs in camp in Ajenavi Eziemefe (New Orleans, La.), who has the size (6-1, 225) play fullback, and Michael Sampson (Lewisville, Texas).

Other fullback candidates include redshirt freshman Brian Johnson (Augusta, Ga.) and sophomore Johnathan Jackson (Jacksonville, Fla.).

“I thought we worked hard and the effort was good, but I thought we were a little ragged,” said Gailey of his squad’s overall performance in its first full-squad practice. “You somewhat expect that in the first practice, but you still don’t like it.”

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