August 23, 2004
* Injuries in August practice led Georgia Tech to shuffle its expected offensive line, but the end result may have been better than the original. With the emergence of Leon Robinson at left tackle, Tech now is starting five players Robinson, left guard Salih Besirevic, center Andy Tidwell-Neal, right guard Brad Honeycutt and right tackle Kyle Wallace who have been in the program for at least four years. That leaves redshirt freshmen Matt Rhodes and Kevin Tuminello in reserve roles, and it puts Wallace back in the place where he feels most comfortable.
Freshman receiver Calvin Johnson, the program's most highly touted recruit in years, set team highs in the vertical jump (43 inches) and the broad jump (11-3). On and off the field, his work has turned the heads of many staff members and veteran players. If Johnson doesn't start from the opening game, he will be a prominent reserve.
Tech has spent scholarships on kickers David Jordan and Kyle Belcher in the last three years, and they are competing for the kickoff specialist job this fall. Jordan, a redshirt sophomore, has been a disappointment on placements. Instead, walk-on Travis Bell will be the kicker. Belcher, who also punts, could factor into the picture with that job soon.
Tech added and subtracted during the offseason. Linebacker Kyle Pupello, a member of the Class of 2003, quit the team. Meanwhile, Louisville transfer Wayne Riles enrolled at Tech for the fall semester and began practicing with the team. Riles must sit out this season, but he should help solve the team's revolving door at tight end next year.
Coach Chan Gailey will continue to call plays, but he promoted quarterbacks coach Patrick Nix to offensive coordinator. Wide receivers coach Buddy Geis added assistant head coach to his title.
The Yellow Jackets hired linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary from North Alabama to replace Brick Haley, who left for Mississippi State. Also, Giff Smith joined the staff to replace Glenn Spencer, who left to join good friend Ted Roof's staff at Duke.
Tech added the shotgun to its offensive playbook during the offseason. Tech didn't do it last season because veteran center Hugh Reilly was uncomfortable with it, and quarterback Reggie Ball was trying to learn the entire offense. The formation is a good setup for Ball, who can use his athleticism. Tech can use tailbacks P.J. Daniels and Chris Woods at the same time in the formation. Tech's centers work on shotgun snaps after every practice. How much the Yellow Jackets use it remains to be seen.
Among the biggest surprises in camp was receiver Levon Thomas. The senior simply couldn't catch the ball last year, and Johnson was expected to easily beat him out for a starting spot. But Thomas has shown an ability to haul in the ball this fall, putting himself squarely into the mix at wideout. Without an established tight end, the Yellow Jackets likely will use more three-wide sets.
With Kenny Scott and Dennis Davis playing extensively on defense and other special teams, Gailey took them off the kickoff return teams. Freshman Pat Clark could make a big impact in that department. Reuben Houston is likely to be the punt returner. Senior Mark Logan could factor into both spots.
A lack of depth means the Yellow Jackets are going to play a number of freshmen, especially on special teams. The units struggled last season for the same reason, and eventually the Jackets replaced several young players with starters. If troubles arise, the same thing could happen this year.