Sept. 7, 2004
Georgia Tech (1-0, 0-0 ACC) will open up its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule this Saturday at Clemson (1-0, 1-0 ACC) in Memorial Stadium. The kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET and will be split nationally-televised on ABC (WSB-TV in Atlanta).
“This is really not one of those games where you have to do special things like bring out a visual aid to get them to focus,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “They will be focused and ready to go for this one.”
The Tigers began the conference season with a double-overtime victory over Wake Forest, 37-30, last Saturday in Memorial Stadium. Starting quarterback Charlie Whitehurst passed for 288 yards and two touchdowns en route to leading the Tigers to a comeback victory over the Demon Deacons. Clemson currently holds the sixth longest winning streak in the country at five games heading into Saturday’s match-up with Tech.
“They spread the field out very well,” said Gailey on Clemson’s offense. “They put their guys in positions to be successful. They use all their weapons, [Eric] Coleman, [Chansi] Stuckey and [Airese] Currie. They spread them out and give you different formations. And Whitehurst is able to handle it. That’s the best thing. He is able to figure out where they all belong and throw it to the guy that is open. You can put in a ton of plays, and if your guys can’t execute them, it’s not going to do any good.”
The Tigers are led on defense by linebacker Leroy Hill. Hill tallied nine tackles in the opener and had two for a loss, including one sack and three quarterback pressures. Joining Hill with nine tackles was corner back Justin Miller.
“You better know where he [Hill] is,” said Gailey. “He can really find the football. He is really good.”
A total of 10 true freshmen saw significant action last Saturday against Samford. Calvin Johnson started at wide receiver and made two catches for 45 yards, while Darrell Robertson and Darryl Richard saw time on the defensive side of the ball for the Yellow Jackets.
“I think we have a feel for our scheme,” said Gailey. “The players that have been around understand what we are trying to do. It’s really for the new players that are playing now that haven’t played that position before, especially in a big ballgame. Offensive linemen [Brad] Brezina and Salih [Besirevic] have not played in a game like this yet. They’re new people lining up at different positions and we’ll have to see how they handle it. The freshmen that have played and will play, Calvin Johnson, Darrell Robertson, Darryl Richard, those guys are going to have to contribute and be a part of it like they were last week. We saw a glimpse of what can happen, but you have to go out and prove it for it to be classified as a known rather than an unknown.”
The Rambling Wreck offense picked up where it left off last season with 28 points against Samford and 469 total yards. The Yellow Jackets have gained 677 yards on the ground in their last two wins and are led by junior tailback P.J. Daniels. Daniels rushed for 169 yards and scored three touchdowns in the opener last weekend, and sophomore quarterback Reggie Ball finished 14 of 21 for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
The Tech defense surrendered just 42 yards on the ground and 211 total yards for the ballgame. Junior linebacker Chris Reis led the attack with 10 tackles and had one for a loss, while junior cornerback Reuben Houston chipped in with nine tackles and two-and-a-half for loss.
“Chris did a really nice job considering it was his first ballgame [at linebacker],” said Gailey. “He will learn so much from watching that tape and walking into the next game. When you play a position for the first time and get about fifty snaps, you learn so much knowledge and are able to go into the next game and become much more effective. He will continue to get better. He’s not the biggest, strongest or the fastest, but he is going to be around the football.”
The Tech offensive line stood the test for game one, not allowing a single sack against the Bulldogs. Sophomore guard Brad Brezina made his first career start at guard for the Yellow Jackets after only working with the first team for a week. Gailey knows that Tech has to continue to get better, especially against a tougher opponent this week.
“Coaches are never happy and I fall into the category of a coach,” said Gailey. “We made progress, but we have a ways to go. I think maybe Tuesday was probably the first day we had our starting line on the field in tact the whole summer. I think they did pretty well under the circumstances, but we have to get better.
“Brad did very well considering the circumstances. We graded him out, and he graded out at a little above average. But considering he has only played the position for a week, you have to say `wait a minute, that’s pretty good’. I think everybody has high hopes for what Brad can be when he gets more work. You hope a guy can go to another position when he needs to for the team and go make something happen. And he certainly has done that.”