Week 4: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech (3-1) features three very talented skill players and one of the ACC's top defenses.

BACKGROUND
Location:
Atlanta, Ga.
Enrollment: 16,500
Nickname: Yellow Jackets
School Colors: Old Gold & White
Stadium: Bobby Dodd (55,000)
Conference: ACC

TEAM
Head Coach:
Chan Gailey
Record at GT: 21-17 (3 years)
2004 Record: 7-5 (4-4)
2004 Bowl: Champs vs. Syracuse (W, 51-14)
Starters Returning: 14 (5 offense, 9 defense)
2005 AP Ranking: No. 24
2005 Current Record: 3-1 (1-1)

Georgia Tech Game Notes

UPDATE ON REGGIE BALL
Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball missed the first game of his career against Connecticut on Sept. 17 when he was hospitalized with viral meningitis.

Ball, a junior from Stone Mountain, Ga., first became ill Friday morning and was treated at the Georgia Tech Student Health Center. While at the team hotel Friday night, his condition did not improve and he was taken to Emory Hospital Saturday morning.

Reggie Ball
He remained at Emory until Monday, Sept. 19.

Ball saw very limited practice reps the following week but started and played three quarters on Saturday, Sept. 24, at fourth-ranked Virginia Tech.

The illness snapped a string of 27 consecutive starts for Ball, the 5-11, 195- pounder. Ball was replaced by redshirt freshman Taylor Bennett, who threw for 142 yards and one touchdown in his first collegiate action to help Tech (3-0, 1- 0 ACC) to a 28-13 victory over Connecticut.

PRINCE OF A RUNNER
Senior tailback P.J. Daniels looks like the Daniels of 2003, when he led the ACC with 1,447 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns and earned first-team all-conference honors. Last season, injuries forced him to miss four games and two other halves, and he managed 714 yards and eight touchdowns.

Daniels currently ranks fourth in the ACC, averaging 94.6 yards per game. He has topped 100-yards three times in 2005, most recently going for 114 yards against Connecticut, following 103 yards against North Carolina and 111 versus Auburn. He actually had four straight 100-yard games, including his 119-yard performance in the Champs Sports Bowl, giving him 13 for his career.

The Houston, Texas, native has moved into fourth place on Tech's career rushing list with 2,792 yards. A former walk-on who earned a scholarship after the 2002 season, Daniels has averaged 101.5 yards per game since the start of the 2003 season.

Daniels, a two-time Academic All-ACC selection, had two of the top three rushing games in Tech history in the 2003 season with 307 yards against Tulsa in the Humanitarian Bowl and 240 yards versus North Carolina.

THURSDAY NIGHT LIVE
For the 13th year in a row, Georgia Tech is featured in ESPN's Thursday night, national television package as the Yellow Jackets host NC State. The Jackets have made 17 appearances since 1991, more than any other school in the nation.

Tech has an 8-9 record when playing in ESPN's Thursday night games, and all but five of the games have been in Atlanta. The Jackets are 7-5 in home Thursday night ESPN games.

Tech is facing NC State in a Thursday night game for just the second time. The last time was in 2000, when the Wolfpack won 30-23, in overtime.

Maryland has been the Jackets most frequent Thursday opponent with six matchups, followed by Virginia with three.

JOHNSON LEADS ACC
All-America candidate Calvin Johnson, one of the nation's most exciting players, leads the ACC in receiving yards per game.

Calvin Johnson

The 6-4 sophomore has 18 catches for 378 yards and three touchdowns, an average of 94.5 yards per game.

For his career, Johnson now has 66 catches for 1,215 yards and 10 touchdowns in 16 games.

That's career averages of 18.4 yards per catch, and 75.9 yards per game, a figure that ranks third among all active receivers in the nation.

Last season against NC State Johnson came up big for the Yellow Jackets. He set up the go-ahead score by making two spectacular third-down catches and then drawing a pass interference penalty.

LAST MEETING WITH NC STATE
On Nov. 6, 2004 in Raleigh, N.C., freshman Rashaun Grant rushed for 122 yards and Reggie Ball's one-yard scoring pass to Levon Thomas provided the winning margin as Georgia Tech scored 17 fourth-quarter points in a 24-14 victory over NC State. Ball completed just 9-of-27 passes for 91 yards on the day but found Thomas on fourth-and-goal to put Tech ahead 17-14 with seven minutes left. Calvin Johnson set up the score by making two spectacular thirddown catches and then drawing a pass interference penalty. Tech's defense held the Wolfpack to just 57 yards rushing and allowed only one offensive score. The Jackets had six sacks and three interceptions, including one that Kenny Scott returned 49 yards for a touchdown.

BEN BOOMS
Punter Ben Arndt has developed into a reliable weapon for the Yellow Jackets. The senior from Young Harris, Ga., is averaging 43.6 yards per kick with nine punts downed inside the 20 and no touchbacks. Arndt is third in the ACC and 19th nationally in punting average, while Tech's net of 39.37 per punt is second in the ACC and 10th in the nation.

JACKETS SECOND IN NATION IN INTERCEPTIONS
After collecting 10 interceptions in its first three games, Georgia Tech is tied for second in the nation in interceptions (2.5 per game). Tech's 10 interceptions are as many as the Yellow Jackets had all of last season.

Dawan Landry
The Jackets grabbed three interceptions and recovered a fumble in the win over Connecticut. Tech forced five turnovers in its season-opening win over Auburn with four interceptions and a fumble recovery, all in the second half.

The Jackets added three interceptions against North Carolina, again all in the second half.

The 10 interceptions have been by eight different players. Free safety Dawan Landry and linebacker Philip Wheeler are the only players with more than one.

Tech is 12th in the nation in turnover margin at +1.50.

Press Conference Quotables

Chan Gailey
Can you assess how having last week off might have helped you after the Virginia Tech game?

"You never know how it affects you until you get to play again, but hopefully, we were able to get healthier."

How much do you worry about the N.C. State game and the fact that all their talent might come together against you this week?

"You have to worry about yourself more than you do about the other team. You're trying to prepare your own team to play the best that we can play so you can't be worried about what other teams are doing, what they might be doing, or what they haven't done. You would drive yourself crazy thinking about all of those things."

Can you talk about how tough it is to maintain confidence after the Virginia Tech game?

"Again, you don't know that until you play. The attitude of our guys is always pretty good when we walk out there on the practice field. You have to get back in a certain mindset to go back out there and play well."

WillEric Henderson be able to play this week?

"No, I don't think he'll be able to."

Do you like Thursday night games?

"From a timing point of view, they're not ideal, but they're great for your program. You get national exposure and that's good because people from other parts of the country get a chance to see us play."

Do you sense a different atmosphere during Thursday games as compared to Saturday games?

"It really depends on the crowd and the type of game we're playing."

Is it a positive regardless of whether you play well or not?

"Well, I think you need to play well and win, which obviously helps. The thirty-second clips about our school that come on during the game give exposure to the program and that's always a positive."

Can you talk about Eric Henderson and how important it was for him coming into this season to be able to stay healthy? And how is he handling the injury this year?

"He's hurting, both physically and emotionally. I tell him that he can only worry about the things that he can control, and that he can't control how bad the injury is. What he can do right now is support this team emotionally. He along with three others (Gerris Wilkinson, Chris Reis, and P.J. Daniels) were just voted permanent team captains for this year by their teammates, and that's a big responsibility."

Can you talk about P.J. Daniels and his emotional leadership on and off the field?

"What you see is what you get from him. The enthusiasm and the way that he lights up a room when he walks in is what you get from him when he's in the huddle, locker room, and on the sidelines."

With P.J. being out for a few games last year, how can he provide that leadership while off the field?

"It's harder to do when you're not playing. You can always do it in the locker room or on the sidelines, but if you're not playing during the game, it's a little tougher to provide that leadership."

How hard is it not having Eric (Henderson) in the game in regards to your pass rush and how successful it's been in terms of interceptions this year?

"I have to give credit to the other guys that have stepped up and played because they must be doing something right. Any time that you lose an All-Conference performer and someone who led the conference in sacks during his sophomore year, you lose a very important part of your defense."

What has N.C. State done defensively in the past few years that sticks out in your mind?

"They play a little more zone, but we're only talking about five to eight percent more, and not thirty to forty percent. Coach Amato has a strong influence on that side of the ball and they're using a lot of things that he learned while at Florida State."

Are (Mario) Williams and (Manny) Lawson the two best combination of defensive ends that a team can face?

"They're two big, strong ends that can run and play at an angle and challenge you to stop them if you can. It's pretty impressive what they can do."

How has Darrell Robertson played and how much has he grown this year based on the number of increased snaps he's been getting?

"He's getting better every week. The problem is that he can't put on enough weight fast enough. He's playing defensive end at the same size that Gerris (Wilkinson) was when he played end a couple of seasons ago, and that's hard to do."

Can you talk about the fact that people tend to forget about how big of a recruit he was because of the hype around Calvin Johnson when he signed here?

"He was a highly recruited young man and we were excited about him when he decided to sign here. I think it's paid off for both of us and that he has a very bright future ahead of him."

What are your thoughts regarding your running game and your ability to get that going again?

"Well, we had a one bad game against a very good defense, and we face another one again this week. We'll just have to find ways to run the ball and hope that we can be successful at it. The challenge is to be able to do that against these big defensive ends and linebackers that have played in the system for a few years."

Are you content with the balance between your running and passing attack?

"If you want to get true statistics, you have to look at the plays that are called during the first half of every game. In the second half, you're going run the ball more if you're ahead and pass more if you're losing. We're the type of team that is going to take what the opposing defense is giving us. We'll always try to run the ball though, because that's what you need to be able to do to be successful."

How smooth has Brad Honeycutt's transition been from guard to tackle?

"He's done a fine job and handled it really well. He's had the chance to play at the tackle position before so it hasn't been that big of an adjustment for him. I think it's more of a natural position for him because he has such great athletic talent which helps him deal with the defensive end with more ease."

Why have you had so much success against N.C State's offense in the past couple of years?

"I think that we've really mixed up things well against their quarterbacks and have been able to keep them off-balance by bringing in guys from different spots on the field. This year, I feel like they're more of a ball-control passing team and they tend not to throw the ball down the field as much. That will make it tougher on us so we'll have to find different ways to try and create indecision by the quarterback."

Could you discuss (Jon) Tenuta's defensive philosophy?

"His philosophy is to bring pressure, and to find ways to create blocking scheme and protection problems. We try to get to the quarterback and we'll bring everybody on the defense in order to be able to do that. His main goal is to create confusion and he's been very successful at it."

Why is it that there have been so many close games in the recent past between the two teams and Tech has always managed to come out on top?

"Every game has been different but I think we've been fortunate to win each year. I can't put my finger on one specific thing that has won it for us each of those years. It seems to me that someone has always made big plays in those games that maybe had not been stepping up in previous games during the season."

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Dawan Landry
Senior, Free Safety, Ama, La.

Do you have the playbook on NC State? You seem to have a lot of success against them.

"Not really. We've been able to scheme well against them. Coach Tenuta comes up with a good game plan."

When you have a lot of success against a team, does that breed confidence in the week leading up to it?

"It kind of does. We've executed well against them, and maybe we can come back this year and do some of the same things, see what works against them."

Have they changed much from what you've seen?

"A little bit. Their routes are a little different, but they still do a lot of shifting, things that cause a defense problems."

How do you like playing them on Thursday night?

"There's nothing like a Thursday night game. The whole United States gets to see that one. We're going against a good opponent. It's always a good feeling. Our crowd usually gets up for Thursday night games, and I don't think this week will be any different."

Is this a better team than their record indicates?

"They can easily be 3-0. They lost two games where they had some key turnovers that cost them. The yardage that they're putting up on offense can cause a lot of defenses problems."

How worried do you get when you face a team like them that might suddenly snap out of it against you?

"It causes problems. They have so many formations. They change personnel a lot. We have to be really talkative on defense and look out for their final formation because of their shifting."

Have you talked to your brother (LaRon, at LSU) since they've had to move around a good deal because of the hurricane?

"I've talked to him a couple of times. Football has been a way for them to get away from dealing with the hurricane. My parents are back home now. I'm from Ama, which is about an hour and a half from Baton Rouge. We had a lot of trees down, and power was out for a week or so. But we were fortunate not to have any big damage.

"They were pretty anxious to get back on the field and play at Tiger Stadium, but they didn't come out with a win."

Does this off-week come at a good time? Or would you have rather gone ahead and get the taste of the Virginia Tech game out of your mouths?

"The off-week gave us a little more time to watch film and get a jump on NC State. A lot of guys got their legs back. I think the off-week helped us, especially coming off of a loss."

Why do you think your defense has intercepted more passes this year?

"The team has jelled. Everybody knows their own assignments. We're coming up with good reads. The defensive line has brought a lot of pressure and forced some bad passes, too."

When you were coming out of high school, how many teams recruited you as a quarterback?

"All of them recruited me as a quarterback. But when I got here, I wasn't performing up to my capabilities, and when the opportunity came, I changed, and it worked out for the best."

What kind of a quarterback were you?

"We did it all in high school. We had option, five-wides, four-wides, things like that. We had a wide playbook."

Did it take a while to adjust to not being a quarterback?

"You need to get used to making a hit instead of being hit. You need to learn how to tackle, back-pedal, play backwards. You have to get used to (not having the ball in your hands). I just worked hard every day trying to get better. It was a mutual decision. I wanted to help the team."

What was the attitude among your teammates last week coming off the loss?

"We were kind of ticked off that we lost. But we stayed positive because we know it's a long season. We didn't play our best game, and it showed. Everybody is still upbeat."

This is your first conference game against a non-division opponent. Have you guys tried to compare divisions in terms of which is stronger?

"No. I don't really think we've done that. We just know we need to go out and play our game."

How different is it having Chris Reis back there with you this year?

"James (Butler) had played safety for two years, and we had some chemistry between us. But with Chris, it's not like we put a guys there who didn't know the defense. He still knows all the calls, we talk a lot. I'm in the post more this year than last year."

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Brad Honeycutt
Senior, Offensive Tackle, Mesquite, Texas

How much of a mental advantage is it for you to have had a lot of success against NC State in the recent past?

"In a way, there might be some advantage. But it really doesn't matter with an upcoming game. They're a whole new team. We're a whole new team. You have to prepare the same way. You can't look at it as a given that you'll be successful the next time. That's the kind of stuff that'll get you beat."

Do you think that once other teams began to see what you (the offensive line) were doing on film, they might be a little better prepared for you?

"It's not like we re-invented our offense. We've run a lot of the same plays in the first few games that we ran last year. Some of them we've run with a little more frequency than we did last year. As you go through the season, nothing is a surprise anymore."

NC State has a pretty talented defensive line. Is this an opportunity to erase a little of what happened at Virginia Tech?

"It's a very good opportunity for us. They are a great defense with a very good defensive front. They're as talented on the line as any of the top teams we'll play."

The Thursday night games are unique. Do you like playing them?

"I like them a lot. First of all, the week flies by, and then you have a long weekend and a chance to rest a little more before you play another game. You're basically the main event across the nation. You're on ESPN, and it's fun to be in the spotlight."

This is the first time you've played a team from the other division of the ACC. Do you compare or contrast the divisions, or do you still need a card to tell you which teams are in which divisions?

"The main thing I look at is the big teams you play every year, Florida State and Miami. I think that by splitting those two up, it's relatively even in my eyes."

You're a fifth-year senior on a line with a lot of younger players. How do you approach that?

"The other guys might be young, but they're great work-ethic guys. They come to work when they practice. They know that it's going to be a process to develop as a line. So they're eager to take it on. Even though they haven't played as many games, they still know what it takes to prepare for a game. But it does take time to develop. I was a young guy on an older offensive line, so I knew if I just did my job, we we're going to be fine. Now I'm the older guy on a young line, so it's kind of interesting."

How have you handled the transition from guard to tackle?

"I enjoy it. I feel like a tackle now. I don't feel as much like a guard trying to play tackle, if that makes any sense. That's a good thing. It's a challenge, but I'm starting to enjoy it. It's a more athletic position than guard. You have to contend with some of the more athletic players on the other team's defense. It's almost more of a skill position in a way. You're moving your feet, like you're a big basketball player out there. It's different."

NC State has two really good defensive ends. What kind of challenge will that be for you?

"They're whole defensive line is very good. I'd rather play a good defensive front than one that's considered bad. It's always better to respect who you're going against and look forward to the challenge."

At what point did you begin to feel comfortable at tackle?

"I felt pretty comfortable the first game. Towards the end of camp, when we began to scrimmage, it started coming back to me."

You've gone up against Eric Henderson (in practice) and know what he can do. When he's not in there, how much does it change things?

"It does change things. You've got a guy with that a lot of talent who is a great leader. Luckily we do have guys behind him who have played. They see this as an opportunity while he's out. They'll do just fine."

Georgia Tech Two-Deep Depth Chart

Georgia Tech vs. NC State, Oct. 6, 2005

Pos No DEFENSE ...................................... Ht. Wt. Cl.

DE 56 Eric Henderson OR ........................ 6-3 265 Sr.-R

90 Darrell Robertson ........................... 6-5 220 So.

DT 97 Mansfield Wrotto ............................ 6-3 310 Jr.

99 Omar Billy ....................................... 6-2 280 Sr.-R

DT 96 Joe Anoai ....................................... 6-3 275 Jr.

94 Elris Anyaibe .................................. 6-3 265 Fr.-R

DE 42 Adamm Oliver ................................ 6-4 260 So.-R

93 Michael Johnson ............................ 6-7 225 Fr.

LB 35 KaMichael Hall ............................... 6-0 225 Jr.

58 Gary Guyton ................................... 6-2 230 So.

LB 49 Gerris Wilkinson ............................. 6-4 230 Sr.-R

52 Travis Chambers ............................ 5-11 220 So.

LB 41 Philip Wheeler ................................ 6-2 225 So.-R

35 KaMichael Hall ............................... 6-0 225 Jr.

CB 25 Dennis Davis .................................. 6-0 185 Sr.-R

34 Avery Roberson ............................. 6-2 190 So.-R

CB 2 Kenny Scott .................................... 6-2 185 Jr.

4 Jamal Lewis ................................... 6-0 185 So.

SS 18 Chris Reis....................................... 6-1 215 Sr.

37 Joe Gaston ..................................... 5-11 195 Jr.

FS 20 Dawan Landry ................................ 6-2 215 Sr.-R

23 Djay Jones ..................................... 6-1 190 So.

Pos No SPECIALISTS ................................ Ht. Wt. Cl.

P 14 Ben Arndt ....................................... 6-0 180 Sr.-R

9 Mohamed Yahiaoui ........................ 5-11 200 Fr.

PK 87 Travis Bell ...................................... 6-0 210 So.-R

9 Mohamed Yahiaoui ........................ 5-11 200 Fr.

KO 9 Mohamed Yahiaoui ........................ 5-11 200 Fr.

SN 84 Gavin Tarquinio .............................. 6-3 250 Sr.-R

50 Bret White ...................................... 5-11 215 Fr.-R

HO 11 Kyle Manley .................................... 6-2 205 Fr.-R

Pos No OFFENSE ...................................... Ht. Wt. Cl.

WR 8 Damarius Bilbo ............................... 6-3 218 Sr.-R

6 Pat Clark ........................................ 5-11 180 So.

88 Chris Dunlap .................................. 5-11 200 Jr.

LT 64 Andrew Gardner ............................. 6-6 285 Fr.-R

53 A.J. Smith ....................................... 6-7 280 Fr.-R

LG 61 Matt Rhodes ................................... 6-3 285 So.-R

78 LeShawn Newberry ........................ 6-0 320 So.-R

C 60 Kevin Tuminello .............................. 6-4 285 So.-R

79 Eddy Parker ................................... 6-4 285 So.-R

RG 73 Nate McManus ............................... 6-3 290 So.

62 Jacob Lonowski .............................. 6-5 285 Fr.-R

RT 72 Brad Honeycutt .............................. 6-4 315 Sr.-R

76 Salih Besirevic ................................ 6-7 295 Sr.-R

TE 48 Michael Matthews .......................... 6-4 270 Jr.-R

80 George Cooper .............................. 6-5 260 Jr.-R

82 Colin Peek ...................................... 6-6 280 Fr.

QB 1 Reggie Ball ..................................... 5-11 195 Jr.

13 Taylor Bennett ................................ 6-3 213 Fr.-R

11 Kyle Manley .................................... 6-2 205 Fr.-R

FB 40 Mike Cox ........................................ 6-1 245 So.

28 Ajenavi Eziemefe ........................... 6-1 240 Sr.

TB 45 P.J. Daniels .................................... 5-10 210 Sr.-R

22 Tashard Choice .............................. 6-1 205 So.-R

24 Chris Woods ................................... 5-11 190 Sr.

3 Rashaun Grant ............................... 5-10 192 So.-R

WR 21 Calvin Johnson ............................... 6-4 230 So.

89 James Johnson .............................. 6-0 190 Fr.-R

81 Xavier McGuire .............................. 6-4 215 Jr.-R

Pos No SPECIALISTS ................................ Ht. Wt. Cl.

PR 6 Pat Clark ........................................ 5-11 180 So.

89 James Johnson .............................. 6-0 190 Fr.-R

KOR 24 Chris Woods ................................... 5-11 190 Sr.

22 Tashard Choice .............................. 6-1 205 So.-R

PRONUNCIATION GUIDE

Joe Anoai ..................................... an-uh-WHY-ee

........................................... (rhymes with Hawaii)

Elris Anyaibe ........................ ERR-iss on-YA-bee

Salih Besirevic ........ SA-lee buh-SHEER-uh-vich

Damarius Bilbo ........................ duh-MARR-ee-us

Matt Braman ...................................... BRAY-mun

Tashard Choice ................................ tuh-SHARD

Ajenavi Eziemfe ......................... ah-juh-NAH-vee

..................................................... eh-ZEM-uh-fay

Brian Fleuridor ........................... FLOOR-uh-door

Loyall Gause .............................................. loy-AL

Rashaun Grant ................................ ruh-SHAWN

Justin Guadagni ............................. guh-DAH-nee

KaMichael Hall ................................ KAY-mike-ull

Dawan Landry ..................................... duh-WON

Jacob Lonowski .............................. luh-NOW-ski

Xavier McGuire .............................. EXX-a-vee-ur

Chris Reis ................................................ REESE

Avery Roberson ............................. ROW-ber-sun

Gavin Tarquinio ............................ tar-KWIN-ee-o

Taalib Tucker ........................................... tuh-LIB

Kevin Tuminello ............................ too-min-ELL-o

Gerris Wilkinson ................................... JERR-iss

Jahi Word-Daniels .................................. jah-HEE

Mansfield Wrotto ..................................... ROTT-o

Mohamed Yahiaoui ...................... ya-hee-OW-ee

Assistant Coaches

Joe D'Alessandris ...................... dal-uh-SAN-dris

Buddy Geis ................................................. GICE

Brian Jean-Mary ............................ jon muh-REE

Jon Tenuta ..................................... tuh-NOOT-uh


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