Aug. 2, 2001
ATLANTA– – Georgia Tech head coach George O’Leary welcomes back 18 starters and 47 letterwinners as the Rambling Wreck varsity reports Friday for preseason practice, joining the 30 freshmen already in camp.
Tech will hold its annual Media Day on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field, and the first full-squad practice is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 6 at 9 a.m. The first full contact workout for the Yellow Jackets, who open the season Aug. 26 against Syracuse in the Kickoff Classic, is slated for Thursday, Aug. 9.
“We have a lot of veteran players back, so I am anxious to see the carryover and the retention from spring ball,” said O’Leary, the 2000 Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year who is entering his seventh season at Tech.
“We have a chance to be a good football team, but we have to make sure that we work every day to get better. You can’t get ahead looking in the rear view mirror.”
Coming off a 9-3 record and a fourth consecutive bowl berth in 2000, the Yellow Jackets return nine starters on defense, seven on offense and both starting kickers.
Headling the returnees are six players who earned all-conference honors in 2000: senior quarterback George Godsey (Tampa, Fla.), senior wideout Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.), senior defensive end Nick Rogers (East Point, Ga.), junior defensive end Greg Gathers (LaPlace, La.), junior placekicker Luke Manget (Conyers, Ga.) and junior free safety Jeremy Muyres (Stone Mountain, Ga.).
In addition to Godsey, who passed for 2,906 yards and 23 touchdowns, the Jackets return ballcarriers who accounted for 98 percent of Tech’s rushing yards in 2000 as well as receivers who accounted for 92 percent of the team’s receiving yards. Campbell led the receiving corps with 59 catches for 963 yards and 10 touchdowns, while junior Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.) was the team’s top rusher with 908 yards and 12 scores. On defense, Tech’s top eight tacklers return.
Meanwhile, after Tech’s freshman class practiced for the first time Wednesday, O’Leary noted the athletic talent in the group.
“It’s obvious there are athletes out there, but they have to learn the speed of the game and the tempo for practice,” said O’Leary, who watched the freshmen complete a 12-minute run before practice. “After the 12-minute run, some anxieties set in — typical freshmen. For the first time out, they’re all nervous kittens, but I thought they handled it well. “It’s a good mix of players at every position, not just one position, so I am pleased with that. And it’s obvious there is more athletic talent than in past classes. ” Of the three quarterbacks in camp — Damarius Bilbo of Moss Point, Miss., Rahshan Johnson of Middleburg Heights, Ohio, and Dawan Landry of Ama, La. — O’Leary said, “All three can throw the ball, which is the number one priority for a quarterback. I was trying to look at some different throws to see what they can do, but it’s hard to evaluate them until you see them making decisions.” Three Tech veterans will be unavailable for all or part of the 2001 season due to knee injuries. Most recently, sophomore tailback Jermaine Hatch (Baton Rouge, La.) suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee over the summer and will be lost for the season. He is scheduled for reconstructive surgery on Aug. 9.
Hatch rushed 35 times for 148 yards in a reserve role last season but ended spring practice fifth on the depth chart in Tech’s crowded backfield. In addition to Burns, the Jackets senior Sean Gregory (Homewood, Ill.), 1,208 career yards and 15 TD, and junior Sidney Ford (Lindale, Ga.), 49 carries, 246 yards 3 TD in 2000, plus talented redshirt freshman Jimmy Dixon (Arlington, Texas).
Sophomore offensive tackle Jeremy Phillips (Watkinsville, Ga.), who tore knee ligaments in spring practice, is still rehabilitating but could be available by midseason. Freshman Gavin Tarquinio (Marietta, Ga.), another spring knee injury victim, is expected to redshirt this season.