August 20, 2002
The Big Picture
Chan Gailey has said repeatedly that he wouldn't have left his NFL gig for just any college coaching opportunity, and clearly he saw that he was stepping into a prime situation in Atlanta. George O'Leary built the Yellow Jackets into one of the ACC's most complete programs five straight bowls, a share of the conference title in 1998, and offensive and defensive systems that pulled in recruits from all over the country. Gailey has been around the game too long not to take advantage of talent. Barring key injuries, he'll succeed with the Jackets in 2002. The bigger question is whether a quiet, laid-back man will be able to recruit after being out of the college game for virtually 20 years.
Gailey must have been told about his players' comments during preparations for the Seattle Bowl. With O'Leary gone and the easy-going Mac McWhorter running things, it was like a weight had been lifted off their shoulders. Players no longer dreaded going to practices, as they did under O'Leary, whose my-way-or-the-highway approach ruffled many feathers. Gailey has tried to rule with a light touch, not saying much when fights broke out nearly every day in practice, and giving players the benefit of the doubt when off-the-field issues surfaced. O'Leary said once that "winning is fun," and Gailey will have to show he knows how to do that, too.
Done For Me Lately
|1997||5-3 (3)||7-5||Carquest Bowl (W)|
|1998||7-1 (1)||10-2||Gator Bowl (W)|
|1999||5-3 (2)||8-4||Gator Bowl (L)|
|2000||6-2 (2)||9-3||Peach Bowl (L)|
|2001||4-4 (4)||8-5||Seattle Bowl (W)|
ACC: 43-37 (.538); No. 5 in ACC
All: 64-52 (.552); No. 6 in ACC
Tech coaches can line up Greg Gathers at end or tackle, and the smallish senior still finds a way to get into the backfield. Linebackers Recardo Wimbush, Daryl Smith and Keyaron Fox may be the ACC's best trio, with Smith destined for NFL stardom. On offense, the depth is at receiver, where Kerry Watkins, Will Glover and Jonathan Smith make up for their size limitations by going into traffic to catch everything. Left tackle Nat Dorsey is a man-child who shut down UNC's Julius Peppers last year. Then there's kicker Luke Manget, whose ACC-record consecutive PAT streak is at 131 and counting.
Coming On Strong
Tailback Sidney Ford sat behind Joe Burns for three years, then had to watch a former safety (Tony Hollings) win the starting job in the spring while Ford sat out with sore ribs. But Ford came into camp more focused than ever and should be a factor. Defensive tackle Travis Parker and end Tony Hargrove are quick and athletic, and both will benefit from the attention paid to Gathers. Kelley Rhino, already the best punt returner in the ACC, has been a ballhawk in nickel and dime packages.
Cause For Concern?
Just as it was under O'Leary, the defensive line still looks like a donut solid on the outside, with a big hole in the middle. Gary Johnson and Alfred Malone just don't get enough penetration to disrupt teams wanting to pound the ball. Cornerback also looks shaky, with Marvious Hester recovering from a leg injury and youngsters Jonathan Cox and Reuben Houston looking like easy targets for experienced QBs. The right side of the offensive line still has to prove itself, particularly first-time starter Kyle Wallace. Depth remains a worry everywhere.
The Whole Truth
"The goal every year is to win the championship. That won't change as long as I'm here. That's the goal, and every practice, every meeting, everything we do will be geared toward winning a championship. That's where we start and that's where we end as far as goals go."
Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey
CHART BY: THE TECH INSIDER