July 31, 2001
ATLANTA– – It may be almost 90 degrees outside, but don’t tell that to Georgia Tech head coach George O’Leary.
“It’s great to smell football in the air,” said O’Leary as 22 scholarship freshmen, along with eight walk-ons, officially began their Tech careers Tuesday by reporting for the start of preseason camp.
After completing administrative procedures and physicals today, the freshman class will hit the field Wednesday morning for the first of four freshmen-only practices. The freshmen workouts, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Rose Bowl Field, will be non-contact sessions.
“For the next two days, I’m not looking for installation, I’m looking for athletic ability,” said O’Leary, entering his seventh full season at Tech. “Can these freshmen play to the speed of the game? I think they’re going to have to do that to get in the mix.
“The freshmen come in all wide-eyed,” he continued. “I’m looking to see how the kids handle things when they are confronted with athletes of their own abilities. They’re all physically gifted athletes. The freshmen who play early are the mature ones. There’s a mental toughness about them that some others don’t have yet.”
Tech returns 18 starters and 35 of the 44 players on offense and defense from last year’s 9-3 squad that finished second in the Atlantic Coast Conference, so O’Leary and his staff are not facing any gaping holes that must be filled by freshmen.
“We will see what they can handle and whether they can help us in the two deep,” said O’Leary. “A lot of the practices will be geared to gauging athletic ability. Can they help us as a skilled athlete, from the standpoint of coverage or catching the ball, or can they help us on the line?
“Hopefully they will all end up contributing, but the ones who do play as freshmen are the ones who are more mature and more tough. When it gets hot and sticky out there, they know how to work through things.”
The scholarship class is made up of three quarterbacks, six offensive linemen (including two who enrolled last spring and will report with the varsity), five defensive linemen, four linebackers, three defensive backs, one running back, one tight end and one receiver.
Much attention has been paid to the three heralded quarterbacks: Damarius Bilbo of Moss Point, Miss.–winner of the Dick Butkus Football Network National High School Player of the Year award–Rahshan Johnson of Middleburg Heights, Ohio, and lefty Dawan Landry of Ama, La. All three are talented, versatile athletes, but O’Leary said all three will remain at quarterback.
“We recruited them as quarterbacks, and that’s the position they will play at Georgia Tech, unless there’s a time when they come to my office and say `Coach, I can help you elsewhere’ and I agree with them,” said O’Leary.
The Tech varsity reports to campus Friday, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Monday, Aug. 6. Thursday, Aug. 9 is the first day of contact. The Yellow Jackets open the 2001 season Aug. 26 against Syracuse in the Kickoff Classic.