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Tech needs Reggie on the Ball

With a solid defensive core and a talented yet inconsistent offense, the 2005 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets look to improve on last season’s 7-5 record and regain a place in the upper echelons of the newly revamped ACC.

Georgia Tech’s offense—and its 2005 season—will likely be as good as junior quarterback Reggie Ball makes it. The third-year starter has had problems with accuracy and decision-making throughout his time at the helm of the Yellow Jackets, including a record of embarrassing occurrences such as fighting with opposing coaches and miscalculating downs in critical game situations.

The quarterback ended his sophomore season on a high note, however, earning the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl Most Valuable Player in Georgia Tech’s 51-14 rout of Syracuse, Dec. 21. The Georgia native is also a threat on the ground, having contributed the third-most rushing yards on last year’s team, as well as two rushing touchdowns. Ball’s performances in spring practice and preseason scrimmages have reportedly been solid.

With more consistent passing from Ball, wide receiver Calvin Johnson is poised to have an outstanding season. The 2004 ACC Rookie of the Year has been tagged as a preseason All-American, and Johnson’s superior speed and evasive ability make every pass to him a potential big play. Senior Demarius Bilbo will likely start as second receiver for the Ramblin’ Wreck.

The Yellow Jackets’ top running back P.J. Daniels will return for his senior year after missing four games last season due to injury. A healthy Daniels will provide Georgia Tech with a balanced offense, and the star’s absence last season created a deep Yellow Jacket backfield by allowing players like backup Tashard Choice a chance to get playing time in real game situations.

“P.J. does look healthy,” head coach Chan Gailey said. “It’s very valuable to have depth [at tailback], and not just depth but experienced depth. All of those guys have played in games.”

Georgia Tech’s offensive line remains a question mark, as only two starters return from the 2004 season. Senior Brad Honeycutt will be moving from guard to right tackle, and sophomore Matt Rhodes will return at left guard, but due to graduation and off-season injury, the composition of the Yellow Jacket offensive line is largely up in the air.

On the other side of the ball, the Georgia Tech defensive unit returns eight starters from last season’s squad, which was ranked 12th nationally in total defense. Defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta is known for his aggressive style, and if the past three seasons are any indication of things to come, fans can expect blitzes, blitzes and more blitzes from the Yellow Jackets. All-ACC middle linebacker Gerris Wilkinson will provide the unit with experienced leadership, and sophomore outside linebacker Philip Wheeler is a young player who could have a huge impact on the season.

On special teams, Travis Bell returns as kicker after an outstanding debut last season. Bell made 15-of-17 kicks in 2004, earning a scholarship from Georgia Tech in addition to a place as a freshman All-American.

The Yellow Jackets kick off a difficult 2005 schedule Saturday against Auburn, who went 13-0 last season. The Ramblin’ Wreck travel to Wallace Wade to take on the Blue Devils on October 15, when head coach Ted Roof and his team will attempt to repeat the 2003 upset over the Duke coach’s alma mater.

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