March 22, 2002
ATLANTA– – The temperature said winter, but the football said spring as Georgia Tech began spring practice under the direction of first-year head coach Chan Gailey.
The Yellow Jackets held the first of their 15 spring workouts Friday at Rose Bowl Field. Practice number two is scheduled for Saturday morning at 10 a.m., and drills continue through the April 20 Springfest scrimmage.
“I saw a lot of spirit, a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of quickness on the field,” said Gailey, who inherits a team that returns 16 starters, including nine on defense. “We got a lot accomplished as far as learning and installing some offense and defense.
“I want to see who can run and hit. We have a great deal of speed and a great deal of quickness, but we’re not the biggest team in the world, so that’s why I keep talking about run and hit. We’re going to have to rely on our speed and quickness.”
Tech’s first two practice are in shorts, so there’s still a bit of anticipation for Gailey and the coaching staff.
“The first two days are in shorts, so you don’t really get a good evaluation,” said Gailey. “You can watch them run and jump, but we’ve been able to do that in agility drills. The key is to actually put the pads on, and that will start next week. But we’ll get a lot of installation done these first two days so that we can do a lot of fundamentals and a lot of evaluation after that.”
So what have the two-and-a-half months leading up to the first practice been like for Gailey, who was named Tech’s 11th head coach on Dec. 29, 2001.
“Organizing spring practice, evaluating players, sitting in on offensive, defensive and special teams meetings, talking about the new football building, working on recruiting for next year, continuing to meet people on campus,” he said. “The focus has obviously been on preparing for spring practice, but there are hundreds of things that you cover as a head coach.”
Gailey was last in the college ranks in 1993 as the head coach at Samford University, and he also served two years as the head coach at Troy State, winning the NCAA Division II title in 1984. He has spent the last eight years in the professional ranks, including two years (2000-01) as the offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins and two seasons as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys (1998-99). Still, Gailey said he felt comfortable in his return to a college setting.
“That wasn’t as big an adjustment as not coaching a position,” said Gailey, who doubled as offensive coordinator during his head coaching stint with the Cowboys. “This is the first time I haven’t a coached a position in . . . forever. I’ve always coached a position or been in charge of one side of the ball.
“So that is a change for me. I had to keep stepping back. I made a lot of notes. I knew the drills that were going on and I tried to target specific drills on both sides that I wanted to see and evaluate.”
One position that will be under scrutiny is quarterback, where Tech must replace two-year starter George Godsey. Gailey and his staff will evaluate as many as four candidates, including junior Andy Hall (Cheraw, S.C.), who was last year’s backup, and Tennessee transfer A.J. Suggs (Powder Springs, Ga.) as well as redshirt freshmen Damarius Bilbo (Moss Point, Miss.) and Dawan Landry (Ama, La.).
“We’ll give everyone a chance to earn the job,” said Gailey. “I don’t know how long that will last. We’ll have to pare this down at some point, but we have not put any type of timetable on anything yet.”