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Offense Shows Progress, Defense Still Strong

Aug. 4, 2003

While the Georgia Tech offense showed improvement in the Yellow Jackets’ third practice, the Tech defense continues to play well, according to head coach Chan Gailey.

“We dropped too many passes again today, but we made a lot more good throws and a lot fewer turnovers,” said Gailey of the offense after Monday’s workout at Rose Bowl Field. “And it was a very spirited practice today.”

While some of Tech’s backup receivers and running backs have struggled with dropped passes, senior Jonathan Smith has showed why he is the Jackets’ top returning skill player. The senior from Argyle, Ga., caught 36 passes for 430 yards while rushing for 118 yards on just 19 carries in 2002.

A couple of the more impressive plays of the day were turned in by freshman quarterback Reggie Ball, who showed his scrambling and running ability.

“He can make a lot of things happen,” said Gailey of the 6-0, 180-pounder from Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, Ga. “And he doesn’t make bad decisions, which is a real plus right now. He’s not making any bad decisions.”

On defense, the first-team unit, led by senior linebackers Daryl Smith, Keyaron Fox, and Ather Brown, continues to “fly around,” says Gailey.

“Again, I thought the aggressiveness of the first defense was very good,” he said.

“We’re still searching for depth on our football team. That will be an ongoing process, so early in these practices, we’re looking at a lot of guys. We’re not going out there with the first defense for 50 plays in a practice. They’re almost taking less than half the snaps, so we’re seeing a lot of people. We’re trying to find out who can do what on the field. There have been some pleasant surprises.”

In addition to the senior triumverate at linebacker, the first unit features experience in senior cornerback Jonathan Cox and returning sophomore starters Eric Henderson at defensive end and Travis Parker at tackle.

By contrast, a number of true freshmen are working on the second-team defense, including linebackers Nick Moore of Arlington, Texas, and Philip Wheeler of Columbus, Ga., cornerback Kenny Scott of Daytona Beach, Fla., defensive tackle Mansfield Wrotto of Snellville, Ga., and defensive end Joe Anoai of Pensacola, Fla.

The Yellow Jackets, who donned shoulder pads for the time in Monday’s practice, continue preseason drills with non-contact workouts Tuesday and Wednesday at 5 p.m. The Jackets’ first practice in pads, and first two-a-day, is Thursday, exactly three weeks before the Aug. 28 season opener at Brigham Young.

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