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Jackets Begin Spring Drills

March 29, 2006

ATLANTA–“All I want is 14 more days just like this – it was perfect,” Georgia Tech head football coach Chan Gailey as the Yellow Jackets opened their 2006 spring practice with Wednesday’s workout at Rose Bowl Field.

Gailey was referring to the perfect spring weather, but he said he was also pleased with the effort of his Yellow Jackets, who return 15 starters from a 2005 team that posted Tech’s ninth straight winning season and earned its ninth consecutive bowl berth.

“I was pleased with the effort,” said Gailey. “We got a little sloppy as the practice went on, but we competed and practiced hard and overall I was pleased with the effort.

“Spring is a new beginning for some players, but for guys who have been in the system two or three years, it’s a continuation. We’re working hard this spring on special teams, and that is a new beginning. We have a new special teams coach (Charles Kelly) with new schemes, so we’ve got a lot of work to do there.”

One of Tech’s most prominent losses from last season is two-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference tailback P.J. Daniels, but the Yellow Jackets have juniors Tashard Choice and Rashaun Grant waiting in the wings.

Choice, from Riverdale, Ga., spent last season as Daniels’ backup, including one start in Tech’s win at third-ranked Miami when Daniels was injured. The 6-1, 205-pound Choice was the Jackets’ second-leading rusher with 513 yards and a team-leading six touchdowns. He is also one of the more vocal Yellow Jackets, which was evident at today’s practice.

“Tashard is doing an excellent job of leading,” said Gailey. “I like his enthusiasm, the way he talks to other players and the way he practices.”

Grant, from Tampa, Fla., made a splash in 2004 when he rushed for 122 yards in Tech’s win at NC State to earn ACC Rookie of the Week honors. He was limited to just 10 carries for 44 yards last season, but Gailey has said that his increased size and strength (he’s up to 200 pounds), coupled with more opportunity to carry the ball, should spell much more productivity from Grant this season.

“Rashaun is bigger and stronger, and that’s going to help him, and it’s going to help us,” said Gailey.

A key veteran for the Yellow Jackets, senior Mansfield Wrotto, moves this spring to right offensive tackle after lettering the last three years at defensive tackle. Wrotto originally moved to offensive guard last spring but had to return to defense in the fall following several injuries there. Now he joins an offensive line that returns four starters, losing only Brad Honeycutt.

Gailey’s first impression of Wrotto on offense was very positive.

“I thought he was a more than pleasant surprise, from what I watched,” said Gailey of Wrotto’s first day. “He picked it up quickly. I’ve got to ask [offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris] how he communicated, but he looked quick and he knew assignments. I was very pleasantly surprised.

“He’s quick enough to handle space. With his size and mass, he’ll really help us there.”

Tech continues spring drills with workouts scheduled for Friday afternoon (4 p.m.) and Saturday morning (11 a.m.).

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