Jackets Open Preseason Practice Thursday

July 31, 2006

ATLANTA--Georgia Tech's 2006 football season kicks off this week as the Yellow Jackets report to campus Wednesday evening and then begin preseason practice Thursday in preparation for their Sept. 2 season opener against Notre Dame.

"I can't ever remember a time when I wasn't excited to get started," said Tech head coach Chan Gailey, entering his fifth season on the Flats.

Tech's first practice is scheduled for Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at Rose Bowl Field. Per NCAA rules, the Jackets will practice Thursday and Friday in shorts, then Saturday and Monday in shoulder pads before the first full contact practice Tuesday, which concludes the five-day acclimatization period. The first day of two-a-days is Wednesday, Aug. 9.

The Jackets return 15 starters from last year's squad that earned Tech's school-record ninth straight bowl game.

"We've got some great returning players, and we've got some good returning players," said Gailey. "We're thin in the secondary. I don't know how good we'll be back there, but probably every other position on our football team is pretty good. We don't have the depth, but our starters, except in the secondary, may be the best group overall that we've had since I've been at Tech."

Headlining the Yellow Jackets will be all-America wide receiver Calvin Johnson, one of the nation's most talented and explosive players.

Johnson, the 6-5 junior, has caught 102 passes for 1,725 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first two seasons. He will again be catching passes from Reggie Ball, a three-year starter at quarterback. Ball enters his senior season as the third-leading passer in Tech history, but he has been hampered by inconsistency. He showed marked improvement in his decision-making last fall, and the Tech coaches looked from continued strides this fall.

Tech's key loss on offense is tailback P.J. Daniels, who finished his career as the fourth-leading rusher in school history, but junior Tashard Choice is waiting in the wings. Choice will benefit from an offensive line that returns four starters while adding senior Mansfield Wrotto, who moves from the defensive line.

The Tech defense was outstanding last fall, ranking 13th in the nation against the run and in the Top 25 nationally in total defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense, interceptions, takeaways and turnover margin. From that unit, the Jackets must replace a trio of all-ACC performers in middle linebacker Gerris Wilkinson, safety Dawan Landry and defensive end Eric Henderson, as well as cornerback Dennis Davis and strong safety Chris Reis. Top returnees include linebackers KaMichael Hall and Philip Wheeler and defensive tackle Joe Anoai.

The strength of Tech's defense this fall could be the front line, where starting end Adamm Oliver is also back, and tackle Darryl Richard returns after a missing the 2005 season with a knee injury. The Jackets' biggest challenge will be rebuilding a secondary that graduated three starters.

The Rambling Wreck special teams feature two-year starter and former all-ACC selection Travis Bell at placekicker.


PRESEASON PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Subject to Change, Open to the public and media for the first two weeks
Thursday, Aug. 3, 4:30 p.m. (helmets)
Friday, Aug. 4, 9:30 a.m. (helmets)
Saturday, Aug. 5, 9:30 a.m. (shoulder pads)
Monday, Aug. 7, 4:30 p.m. (shoulder pads)
Tuesday, Aug. 8, 4:30 p.m. (full pads)
Wednesday, Aug. 9, 9:30 a.m., 5:15 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 10, 4:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 11, 9:30 a.m., 5:15 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 12, 3:30 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 14, 9:30 a.m., 5:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 15, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 16, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 17, 9:30 a.m., 5:15 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 18, 4:15 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 19, 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 19, Fan Photo Day, 10 a.m. - 12 noon