ATLANTA- With Georgia Tech’s season opener less than two weeks away, the Yellow Jackets will hold a final dress-rehearsal scrimmage Wednesday and then begin preparations for the BCA Bowl at 10th-ranked Virginia Tech, scheduled for Aug. 27 at 8 p.m. in Blacksburg, Va.
“We’re progressing well,” said Rambling Wreck head coach George O’Leary, who is beginning his sixth season on the Flats. “We’ve had some really good contact. We’re still making some mistakes, but I’ve seen great effort and great intensity. That’s what you’re asking for this time of year. We’ll correct the mistakes and the technique, but we’ve got a lot of willing bodies out there on both sides of the ball.”
Junior George Godsey (Tampa, Fla.) has strengthened his grip on the starting quarterback job, but O’Leary has been pleased with the progress of backups Andy Hall (Cheraw, S.C.) and Jermaine Crenshaw (Greenville, Ala.).
“There’s no question that George Godsey has distanced himself from the others,” said O’Leary. “I thought that he had a great summer, and he’s done nothing in the preseason to prove me wrong. He has a good command of what we’re doing and he shows great leadership in the huddle.
“But I think Andy Hall and Jermaine Crenshaw have improved from the spring also. They both have more confidence about themselves.”
Godsey, who was Joe Hamilton’s backup the last two years, is Tech’s only quarterback with any game experience. In two seasons, he has completed 13 of 32 passes for 146 yards. Hall redshirted last fall, while Crenshaw, a sophomore, saw some action at wideout and caught three passes.
Although he is not expected to see action, O’Leary also praised freshman signal caller Mark Logan (Greenwood, S.C.).
“He’s a typical freshman quarterback in that his head is swimming a little bit with all the installation, but he has great poise and great awareness, which is what you’re looking for,” said O’Leary. “He’s going to be a very good football player.”
With the quarterback position taking shape and the majority of the other skill players returning, including flanker Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.) and tailbacks Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.) and Sean Gregory (Homewood, Ill.), the primary question on offense is depth on the offensive line.
“I think we’re going to be fine up front as far as the first group,” said O’Leary. “We get movement and we protect well enough. I’m more concerned about some of the second-team players and what kind of help we can get from them.”
Senior tackle Chris Brown (Augusta, Ga.) and senior guard Brent Key (Trussville, Ala.) anchor an offensive front five that also includes junior center David Schmidgall (Clearwater, Fla.), redshirt freshman John Bennett (Woodstock, Ga.) at right tackle and either freshman Clay Hartley (Bryceville, Fla.) or sophomore Raymond Roberts-Blake (Walthourville, Ga.) at left guard. True freshman Leon Robinson (Garden City, Ga.) has been impressive at guard.
Freshmen receivers Nate Curry (Miami, Fla.) and Jonathan Smith (Argyle, Ga.) could win spots on the depth chart, and Smith is also a candidate to return punts.
Several other members of Tech’s highly regarded freshman class have also caught O’Leary’s eye and could earn playing time. The rookie who has probably made the greatest impact thus far is cornerback Jonathan Cox (Chicago, Ill.), who has earned some repetitions with the first team, but several other freshmen defenders could be in the mix, including safety Sterling Green (Hyattsville, Md.) and cornerback Tony Hollings (Jeffersonville, Ga.) and linebackers Daryl Smith (Albany, Ga.), Hobie Holiday (Warner Robins, Ga.) and Keyaron Fox (Atlanta, Ga.).
“Jonathan Cox has good vision for a freshman and he has a second gear,” said O’Leary. “Another guy who keeps showing up is Sterling Green. But they’re freshmen, so we’ve got to see them more in game-type situations.”
O’Leary has been pleased with the progress made by a defensive unit that was plagued by injury and inexperience in 1999.
“I think there’s no question we’re stronger at the point of attack,” said O’Leary, whose squad returns 10 defensive starters. “We’ve improved the strength level on defense and that’s obvious on the line of scrimmage. You can see the confidence level over there. And that’s good for our offense to work against them. The quarterbacks are getting a good look as far as what they need to see.”