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Receivers Show Versatility

Aug. 14, 2004

ATLANTA– – The versatility of Georgia Tech’s receiving corps was on display in the Yellow Jackets’ scrimmage Saturday as five different players caught touchdown passes, including two each by senior Levon Thomas, junior Damarius Bilbo and freshman Calvin Johnson.

“We do have a lot of diversity on the field right now,” said Tech head coach Chan Gailey. “We’ve got big guys, fast guys. The key is to put all those folks in position to do what they can do best. Last year, we didn’t quite have the depth and the diversity that we have this year.

“These receivers are fairly well rounded. One’s not just fast, or one’s not just a route runner. They’ve got some ability to do a lot of different things, which should help us in the long run.”

Thomas, from College Park, Ga., had three receptions that covered 94 yards, highlighted by a 42-yard touchdown catch from Reggie Ball that ended the two-hour scrimmage at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. He has also had a 12-yard touchdown and a 40-yard completion.

“To me he is one of our most improved players from last year to this year,” Gailey said of Thomas. “He has caught the ball well. He is going to be a big part of this offense. He’s got a much better grasp of the offense, and he’s had a much better camp catching the ball.”

Johnson, the 6-4 true freshman from Tyrone, Ga., hauled in five passes for 85 yards, including scoring passes of 12 and 33 yards. Bilbo caught two touchdowns from Ball in the red zone, covering one and 12 yards.

True freshman James Johnson caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from freshman Kyle Manley, who was 3-for-7 for 33 yards, while another true freshman, Pat Clark, had a 43-yard reception. Senior fullback Jimmy Dixon added a 20-yard touchdown reception.

Tech’s top returning receiver, senior Nate Curry, is being held out of contact drills as he recovers from a minor injury.

Ball, the sophomore quarterback from Stone Mountain, Ga., completed 14 of 22 passes for 232 yards and seven touchdowns, but he did throw two interceptions.

“We made some improvements in the passing game,” said Gailey. “We can’t have those two interceptions in the red zone, but there was some overall improvement. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.

“I’ve said this before, but when Reggie feels comfortable and the protection is good, his execution level takes a big leap. I thought he felt very comfortable with the protection and with seeing things today, and that’s what we’ve got to have. Protection is where it all starts. You can have every route in the world, but if you can’t protect, it doesn’t matter.”

Starting tailback P.J. Daniels was also held out of the scrimmage, but backup Chris Woods carried 12 times for 74 yards and one touchdown.

Cornerback Dennis Davis, safety Joe Gaston and linebacker KaMichael Hall had interceptions for the Tech defense.

Junior Chris Reis, the linebacker converted from safety, had two sacks. Eric Henderson, Tabugbo Anyansi, Nathan Burton, Gerris Wilkinson and Philip Wheeler also had sacks.

“He’s making a lot more plays as he’s understanding the defense and where he belongs,” said Gailey of Reis, the 6-1, 219-pound junior who moved to linebacker in the spring. “He still gets bounced around sometimes because of his size, but he’s got much more of a comfort level with where he’s supposed to be and how he’s supposed to play his position.”

Redshirt freshman placekicker Travis Bell continued to perform well, hitting from 35, 30 and 49 yards without a miss.

“He’s done a good job. He’s been very solid all summer,” said Gailey.

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