ATLANTA (Sept. 8) — Georgia Tech’s 1999 recruiting class has made its presence felt immediately as the Yellow Jackets started three freshmen on defense in last week’s win over Navy while playing seven other true freshmen.
We went out and recruited people that could come in and help us at specific positions, said O’Leary as his 10th-ranked Yellow Jackets prepare for Saturday’s game at top-ranked Florida State (8 p.m., ABC-TV)
I think the freshmen who do play don’t act like freshmen, he continued They’re a little bit more mature, and they separate themselves through speed, strength or athleticism. That’s what the ones who have played have done. They’ve separated themselves from the rest of the freshmen.
I think the biggest thing is those young kids weren’t intimidated, didn’t act like true freshmen, were very focused on what was going on and were quick learners. Those are the things I see that separate freshmen who play.
In the starting lineup for the Jackets were defensive end Greg Gathers, linebacker Recardo Wimbush and cornerback Selwyn Scott. The last time Tech started three true freshmen was in 1983, when several different rookies were in the lineup at various times during the season, including cornerback Reginald Rutland, tackle John Davis, tailback Cory Collier, safety Anthony Harrison and flanker Gary Lee.
Gathers, a 6-1, 249-pounder from LaPlace, La., made the biggest impact as he collected nine tackles, two sacks and one tackle for loss while causing and recovering a fumble against the Midshipmen.
I think it was a different type of game for a freshman, said O’Leary. There wasn’t a big passing game involved there. It was more of running game, responsibility-wise. I think he played well. He needs to play better, but I think he played well because three-quarters of his responsibility was just run. He wasn’t involved much in the pass game because they didn’t throw a lot.
I’m anxious to see him more this week. He’ll have his turn on the field, and that will be more of a measuring stick on where he is. I do think that for a freshman in his first game he played well. He’s still learning what to get done. With [Andy] Josephson coming back, we can keep him fresher on the field.
Wimbush made four tackles, while Scott had one. The most prominent freshman on offense was flanker Will Glover.
Offensively, I think Will Glover is eventually going to be the Charlie Rogers-type player for us, said O’Leary. He played Saturday, we didn’t get him the ball, but I think he has a bright future ahead of himself. When I saw Recardo Wimbush last year, I thought he was the best linebacker in the Georgia-Florida All-Star Game from a speed and knowledge standpoint, so that didn’t surprise me. At cornerback with Selwyn Scott playing out there, I think Troy Tolbert’s suspension had a lot to do with that. I thought Troy had a good spring, and his suspension just elevated Selwyn Scott.
I do think they’re good football players, but injuries and suspensions caused them to elevate their talent level as far as getting a chance to see them a little sooner.
Other freshmen who saw action in the opener were guard Raymond Roberts-Blake, safety Jeremy Muyres, defensive end Fred Wright, kickers Philip Newman and Luke Manget and Kelley Rhino on special teams.