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Tech Defensive Line Makes Progress

Aug. 9, 2003

Georgia Tech’s young defensive line, a question mark entering the preseason, has shown good progress through the Yellow Jackets first week of practice.

“We’ve got a lot of speed on the defensive front right now, and that’s what it’s going to take for us to be successful,” said Tech head coach Chan Gailey after Saturday’s morning practice. “We’re not very big, so we’ve got to move in order to be able to hold up.”

Tech has two returning starters on the front line in tackle Travis Parker and end Eric Henderson, and linebacker convert Gerris Wilkinson is working at end.

At tackle, true freshman Mansfield Wrotto, a 6-3, 300-pounder from Snellville, has shown promise thus far.

“He has improved every day on the field, which is a big plus,” said Gailey of Wrotto. “He’s a big man, and he’s a smart football player; he’s just inexperienced. He doesn’t know what it’s going to take to play 60 snaps in a physical ballgame, but he’s certainly picking things up as we go.”

After sophomore Damarius Bilbo tried playing running back in Friday’s practice, the door is still open for him to play quarterback as he and the Tech coaches look for the best way to utilize his talents.

“We’ll find a place for him,” said Gailey. “It could be ‘Slash’ with the wide receiver-quarterback thing. We’re going to find a place for him to contribute to the offense where’s he comfortable and we’re comfortable.

“He’s got a great attitude,” continued Gailey, the former Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive coordinator who developed Kordell Stewart into the original Slash. “He’s an unbelievable young man, and he’ll be an asset to our football team in some way, shape or form.”

Bilbo, who played in eight games at quarterback last fall, reiterated his commitment to the Yellow Jackets.

“I worked the whole summer for Georgia Tech; I didn’t work for another school,” he said after practice. “I worked in the weight room for Tech, and I’m going to play wherever I can this season and win some games for us.

“I’m kind of confused and excited at the same time. We’ve still got a game coming up on Aug. 28, so I’m just excited and hoping for the best right now.

“I tried the running back thing, and Tony Hollings didn’t come out of me, so I’m going to try some receiver, but I’m still a quarterback, too. Coach Gailey told me I could still be a quarterback, but he wants me to do some of that ‘Slash’ stuff so he look at some of the other quarterbacks. I’m not really comfortable yet, but I’m happy with the situation.”

The Jackets practiced again Saturday evening, including a 75-minute scrimmage session during which all three Tech quarterbacks, senior A.J. Suggs and freshmen Reggie Ball and Patrick Carter, showed positive signs.

Suggs was steady, leading the Jackets on a 70-yard touchdown drive on which he hooked up with Levon Thomas for a 37-yard completion.

Ball connected with Nate Curry on a short pass that Curry turned into a 32-yard touchdown by breaking a tackle. Rounding into form after two injury-plagued years, Curry finished with five catches for 73 yards.

Carter threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to freshman Chris Dunlap and hit freshman Rashaun Grant for a 12-yard touchdown on a screen pass.

Sophomore Chris Woods rushed for 75 yards on 14 carries and scored two touchdowns, while Grant gained 40 yards on eight carries and scored on the screen pass, but both backs fumbled.

“He’s got to hold onto the football, but he is running hard,” said Gailey of Woods, the transfer from Morris Brown. “And he can make a big play. He can split it and make a big play, and that’s a good combination. Rashaun Grant showed more life than he’s shown all fall, which was good. He’s got a little speed on the corner, and the screen pass was nice.”

The Jackets return to practice Monday at 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

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