Aug. 17, 2001
ATLANTA– – The Georgia Tech football team concluded two-a-day practices with a one-a-day on Friday. The Yellow Jackets were scheduled to practice twice Friday, but head coach George O’Leary called off the evening session, opting instead for meetings and film work.
“Any time you finish two-a-days, people are sore and a little banged up, which is the way it probably should be,” said O’Leary, whose squad opens the season Aug. 26 against Syracuse in the Kickoff Classic.
The 10th-ranked Yellow Jackets will hold their annual Fan Photo Day Saturday afternoon from 2-4 p.m. at the Griffin Track infield. Tech players and coaches will be available for photos and autographs, and admission is free. Fans should enter the Griffin Track from the Fowler Street entrance adjacent to the Bill Moore Tennis Center.
“We got better in our conditioning and our contact condititioning this preseason,” said O’Leary. “I still see that we need to get better at finishing plays on both sides of the ball. We have good initial effort, but the second effort is what I’m looking for and needs to improve. “I do think many of the young kids got better as the preseason went on, and I’m anxious to see if they can continue to keep to the speed of the game. I’m trying to emphasize doing things exactly right, not almost right.”
Tech, which began preparations for the Orangemen by working against scout teams Thursday and Friday, is scheduled to practice Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon.
“We’ll set the two-deep, but even if they’re not on the two-deep, they could be an ankle away from playing,” said O’Leary. “Everybody has a role on this football team, and they need to fulfill those roles for us to be successful.”
One role on which O’Leary places great emphasis is special teams. Last year, Tech was first in the ACC and sixth in the nation in kickoff returns and also led the league in kickoff coverage and was in the Top 20 nationally in net punting.
All-ACC placekicker Luke Manget (Conyers, Ga.) , academic all-America punter Dan Dyke (Winter Springs, Fla.) and all-conference return specialist Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.) play a big part in that, but certainly they are not the whole story.
“We have a core of players on special teams, guys that don’t necessarily start on offense or defense but play an integral part of our success,” said O’Leary. “As I tell them, one out of every five plays in a game is in the kicking game. They understand the importance of special teams, that’s why we call it special, and they take a lot of pride in that.”
An example of Tech’s unsung heroes on special teams is junior Kelley Rhino (Smyrna, Ga.), who led the Jackets with 10 special teams tackles last fall and is also a candidate to return punts.