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Yellow Jackets Set to Hit the Field

Aug. 2, 2003

The Georgia Tech football team had a busy day Saturday. Tech players and coaches met with the media, then the team hosted its annual Fan Photo Day Saturday afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field as approximately 2,000 fans met the Yellow Jackets and checked out the newly expanded stadium. The Yellow Jackets practiced for the first time Saturday evening, working out for about two-and-a-half hours in shorts and helmets. Tech continues preseason practice Sunday at 5 p.m.

Below are comments from Gailey and several Tech players.

HEAD COACH Chan Gailey

On Today’s First Practice: “I was impressed with our conditioning level. I was impressed with the freshmen. I was pleasantly surprised with what some of them were able to do. There were too many turnovers, but the effort was very good.”

Status of Greg Gathers: “Greg has not been released at this point to begin full speed practice. He’s still going to be doing the same types of things he did in Spring practice. He can do some conditioning stuff, but they’ve pulled back on that a little bit. We’re still in limbo with where he will’be for this year.

“He’s disappointed. I think we all want to get things under control first before we think about football in the future. Let’s just get the issues in front of us under control.

“That’s the way we’ve worked. If we get him, it’s great, gravy almost, but we have to prepare as if we won’t have him.”

On the first days of practice: “A lot of installation has to go in. We have to get these younger guys up to speed as fast as possible because they’re going to be important parts of the team this year, a lot more than we’originally anticipated. There’s a process of installation, making sure that we’acclimate ourselves to the heat with pads on, that’s a part of the process right now, so we will be’working on’that for the first five days.

On what the coaches will look for in the first days of practice: “Tempo and effort. We’re going to have to win with effort and execution. That’s how we’re going to win. And there’s ‘X’ amount of knowledge you’re going to have to have in order to be able to play. We’re preaching to our players about effort and execution.”

On deciding to call most of the plays this year: “When I left Dallas, I said I wasn’t going to be the head coach and the offensive coordinator again. I thought when I was the offensive coordinator I was doing the head coaching job a little bit on an injustice, and when I was the head coach I was doing the offensive coordinator position a little bit of an injustice. So for me, trying to do both of this full-time doesn’t work.

“So the way I’ve organized it this year, is Coach (Patrick) Nix is going to do be in charge of the running game and coach the quarterbacks. Coach (Buddy) Geis is going to be in charge of the passing game and coach the receivers.

“They’re going to take a lot of the practice plan,’a lot’of the paper work, some of the film study off of me, so I can still do my head coaching job. But I’m still going to be involved in game plan and play calling to the full extent.

“I’ll call 90 to 95 percent of the plays.”

On the punting situation: “(Hal Higgins) He had an erratic spring until the last week, and kicked pretty well that last week of spring practice. He and Andy Thompson right now are the two guys in the thick of it and we’ll see who else steps up.”

On the quarterback position: “We feel like we have a great idea of what A.J. can do and what he’s capable of at the quarterback position. We don’t have a good feel for these other guys. So we are going to give them a majority of the snaps in the off-season and see if they can handle’the job.

“(Damarius Bilbo) He’s going to get the majority of the snaps because he ended spring practice in that position. We’re going to try and bring these two freshmen into the offense and see what they can do.”

On the tightness of the group

“II think we do have a tight group of players right now. There are a lot of factors that go into what brings a team together. Adversity is one of those things that normally does bring a team together. We had that happen last year with some injuries. Our guys found a way to fight through some tough games and some tough games on the road. I’m hoping we can build on what we did positive last year and eliminate the negative.”

On the younger players having to contribute right away: “The difficulty in that is they don’t have much experience. They’re obviously not mature size and skill-wise at this point, so it’ll be a big jump for them to go from high school football to major college football.

“There could be some guys that not only play a lot, but end up starting. Joe (Gaston) is a tough, fast guy. We’ve set the criteria for this football team to recruit guys that run and hit, and he falls in that category. I’m anxious to see what he can do on the field.”

On the offensive line:

“The offensive line has got to be an area that dominates. We need to have them dominate in order for us to be a successful football team. We need to control the ball, we need to control the clock, and when you have a good offensive line, you are able to do that.”

On the schedule and the first four games: “As a coach you coach one game at a time. I’ve been in seasons where we’ve lost the first three games and came back and had successful seasons. You just keep playing, that’s what make the game great. If you don’t play well early, you just don’t say, My God we’re awful and we’re never going to win again and give up, that’s crazy.

“The idea would be to play three junior high schools, but that’s not going to happen so we need to be concerned with our opener against BYU.”

On low expectations according to the media:

“I’m not worried about prognosticators first of all, because they picked Virginia eighth last year and Maryland seventh the year before and they won it. I don’t put a lot of value in what they say. That’s the great thing about the game of football, you don’t depend on people with pen and paper, you depend on people on the field and then you evaluate at the end of the season.”

On Coach Patrick Nix:

“He’s an excellent young coach and he has aspirations of being a head coach one day and I think he will be a great head coach one day. I’m very comfortable with him handling’those responsibilities for us.”

Wide Receiver Jonathan Smith

“We worked hard over the summer to get better and prepare for the upcoming season. We’re going to strive for high goals and prove everybody wrong. I’m looking to make some big plays. I’m just ready to get started.”

Tight End John Paul Foshi

“My coach said something to me this morning. He asked if I drive with me head turned back, left, right or forward. That’s the way I feel our team is going to be this year. We’re not looking back. The guys that are here are going to try and accomplish something great.'”

(Tough opening game at BYU) “I wouldn’t want to start any other way. I’m really looking forward to see how our team is going to respond and I’m excited about traveling to BYU.”

Quarterback Damarius Bilbo

“I’ve worked really hard over the summer and I’m ready to get into action.

“I think we are the only ones that believe that something positive is going to come out of the season. We have to look forward. We are missing some guys in key positions, but the guys that fill those gaps are going to give 110 percent.”

“Competition brings out the best in everybody. We have two new guys in Reggie Ball and Patrick Carter who are good players and that’s just going to push A.J. and me. We’re all looking forward to the challenge and try and get it settled by the opening game.”

Linebacker Daryl Smith

“I’m looking forward to another chance at winning the ACC, beating Georgia and getting an opportunity to go to a bowl. I want to be a better leader this year and perform every game. I’m not worried about where they rank me. I know that I have to work hard and keep playing hard every game.”

Quarterback A.J. Suggs

“I really don’t even know where we have been picked. Expectations don’t mean anything. Look at years in the past where we were not supposed to do well and did. What does it matter where people pick us in the preseason.”

“They recruit great players and we all come in here and compete every year. So it’s no different than years past. I think it makes everyone better.”

Center Hugh Reilly

“We really appreciate all the new facilities we have here now. It’s really exciting to have these kind of facilities now.

“I really haven’t heard what people say. If you don’t go out there with the mindset that you’re going to win every game, than there is no reason to go out there at all. Our attitude is to go out there and try and win every game.”

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