ATLANTA – The Georgia Tech football team welcomes back 17 starters and 36 of its top 44 players from a year ago, but the squad opened spring practice Friday on a new field.
On one of the two fields at Tech’s Rose Bowl practice complex¯where the Yellow Jackets have practiced since the days of Bobby Dodd and William Alexander¯the natural grass has been replaced with Field Turf, a synthetic turf with a rubber and sand filling that is becoming popular around the nation.
“I’m happy with this new field,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary, beginning his seventh season on the Flats with a record of 45-28. “It really gives us some options as far as dealing with inclement weather. I know the players like running on it.”
“For the first day, I thought we did a lot of installation, and there was a lot of retention, which I was looking for.”
O’Leary mentioned some young players with whom he is eager to work this spring.
“On offense, I’d like to take a look at Johnathan Jackson and Jimmy Dixon, and Gavin Tarquinio is a true freshman who is here for spring ball,” he said. “Defensively, I’m anxious to see Casey Loesch and Albert Poree.”
Jackson (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Dixon (Arlington, Texas) are a pair of redshirt freshmen running backs who look to make impact. The 6-2, 225-pound Jackson could earn a starting berth at fullback, where Tech graduated four-year starter Ed Wilder, while Dixon, 6-1, 200, looks to earn carries at tailback in a deep backfield that returns Joe Burns, Sean Gregory, Jermaine Hatch and Sidney Ford. That quartet combined for 1,593 yards last season, including 908 yards and 12 touchdowns by Burns.
Tarquinio, a 2001 signee from Marietta’s Wheeler High School who enrolled this semester, is a backup at center.
On defense, Loesch and Poree are both transfers who could earn starting roles after sitting out last fall in accordance with NCAA rules. Loesch is a 6-3, 275-pound defensive tackle who played two seasons at South Florida. Poree, a cornerback from New Orleans, La., transferred to Tech after one season at Notre Dame.
The Yellow Jackets continue spring drills with a Saturday morning workout at 10 a.m.