August 23, 2004
The Big Picture
Things have settled down on the Flats. Gone are the controversies that swelled after the 2003 season, surrounding the team's dismal finish and academic problems. Coach Chan Gailey and his staff have begun to rebuild the program's depth through solid recruiting, and they've created a sense of excitement around the program. Of course, the Yellow Jackets know those good feelings will last for only so long if the victories don't follow. Tech got a pass for last year's inconsistency because it started a true freshman at quarterback. Now he's a sophomore, so more consistent efforts will be expected on a week-to-week basis by an often-impatient fan base.
Gailey knows he needs more speed to compete in the ACC, so he attacked that skill in recruiting and in the composition of his staff. When strength and conditioning aides Ed Ellis and Scott Sinclair left Atlanta to work for ex-Tech coach George O'Leary at Central Florida, Gailey brought in Eric Ciano from Tennessee. Ciano's background in speed training made the difference. The work in recruiting paid off as well, as the Jackets landed prep All-American wide receiver Calvin Johnson and several other speed players on both sides of the ball. Tech isn't exactly ready to run relays against Miami or Florida State, but at least it's staying afloat.
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)|
|2002||4-4 (5)||7-6||Silicon Valley (L)|
|2003||4-4 (4)||7-6||Humanitarian Bowl (W)|
ACC: 44-36 (.550); No. 4 in ACC
Overall: 68-52 (.567); No. 3 in ACC
Defensive end Eric Henderson and free safety James Butler anchor the defense and rank among the best players in the nation at their positions. Henderson is just scratching the surface on how good he can be. An improved defensive line, including Travis Parker at end and several young players in the middle, should open things for Henderson. Butler emerged last season, setting a Tech record for tackles by a defensive back. Given his impressive track record, defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta will figure out a way to build around them. Offensively, a veteran line should provide comfort for All-ACC tailback P.J. Daniels and quarterback Reggie Ball, the reigning ACC rookie of the year. Ball, who stagnated at the end of last season, must continue to improve if the Yellow Jackets are to win many games.
Coming On Strong
Wide receiver Damarius Bilbo, a converted quarterback, basically lost last season, as he never got mentally straight after switching positions. But in the spring, Bilbo decided to dedicate himself, and now he provides a big, tough target for Ball. Cornerbacks Kenny Scott and Reuben Houston are looking like solid one-on-one defenders, giving Tenuta more flexibility to use his many blitzes.
Cause For Concern?
The Yellow Jackets' first 22 appear strong, perhaps even good enough to compete for a top-four finish in the ACC. But Tech has very little depth, which means it easily could drop into the middle or lower of a very deep pack. Injuries along the offensive line, at linebacker or to one of the team's core players could spell doom. Tech wore down at the end of games last season for the same reason. The shaky depth also makes an impact on special teams, which already are relatively weak. Punter likely will be a question mark all season, and kicker Travis Bell also is unproven.
The Whole Truth
"It's a lot nicer (this year). It's a much more positive feel and outlook, and that's good. It was a tough situation (with massive offseason attrition) last year. If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger."
Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey
CHART BY: THE TECH INSIDER
(7-6, 4-4 ACC)
|13||at Brigham Young||24|
|13||at Florida State||14|
|24||at Vanderbilt (OT)||17|
|24||at Wake Forest||7|
|Sept. 4||Samford (7-4)|
|Sept. 11||at Clemson (9-4)|
|Sept. 18||at North Carolina (2-10)|
|Oct. 2||Miami (11-2)|
|Oct. 9||at Maryland (10-3)|
|Oct. 16||Duke (4-8)|
|Oct. 28||Virginia Tech (8-5)|
|Nov. 6||at N.C. State (8-5)|
|Nov. 13||Connecticut (9-3)|
|Nov. 20||Virginia (8-5)|
|Nov. 27||at Georgia (11-3)|
Florida State, Wake Forest