Jackets maintain focus

Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey surrendered play-calling duties before the beginning of last season, in which the Yellow Jackets lost their final three games. Gailey said he considered returning to the role but hired offensive coordinator John Bond in March.

PINEHURST, N.C. - Georgia Tech football coach Chan Gailey can sense his players' angst over their 2006 finish.


The Yellow Jackets spoiled their best season this decade by losing their last three games: The grudge match against Georgia, the Atlantic Coast Conference title game and the Gator Bowl.

Seven months later, they're still fuming. By Gailey's estimation, the feeling is building.

"That's been unfolding as the summer has gone along," Gailey said Monday at the ACC Kickoff, the league's preseason media gathering. "I think they did take a little bit (of satisfaction out of last season) maybe, but if you let a little bit of satisfaction be OK, then you're in for trouble.

"Did we win it? No? Then it wasn't enough."

Star player Philip Wheeler used stronger words to describe the team's sentiments.

"We're kind of pissed off," Wheeler said. "We had to go and lose our last three games - our biggest games of the season - all by three points. That's been dogging us all spring and all summer."

Those failures kept the team focused throughout an off-season full of potential distractions.

Gailey interviewed for coaching jobs in the NFL, star wide receiver Calvin Johnson left early for the league's draft, offensive coordinator Patrick Nix resigned and was replaced with John Bond, and quarterbacks Laurence Marius and Steven Threet left the program..

"It's been a strange year, but coach Gailey was real up front with us about everything, especially when it came to him and the NFL," tailback Tashard Choice said. "And as for people leaving early or transferring, it happens. People come and go each day. We're just rolling with it."

Preseason practice, which starts next week, should bring back a degree of normalcy.

The players sidelined by injury this spring are healthy, with the exception of third-string fullback Trevor Bray. Bond's offensive scheme has been fully implemented. And Gailey doesn't anticipate his role changing again.

He surrendered the play-calling duties prior to last season, saying the offense needed a fresh approach, and assumed more of an oversight position.

"I try to evaluate my role after each season, to see where I am best suited for the team. What can I do to help the team be more successful?" Gailey said. "I felt like last year that was stepping away. I thought very seriously about going back into it this year, but the reasons I left it had not changed. That just wasn't right. It was convenient, but it wasn't right."

The focus now shifts to repeating as ACC Coastal Division champions. ACC media members picked Virginia Tech to win the division over Georgia Tech in Monday's preseason poll.

But what has happened, not what might happen, weighs heaviest on the Yellow Jackets.

"We're on the same page about wanting to change the outcome of last year," Gailey said. " You can't change the outcome until you get in the position again. That's our focus right now."

Reach Adam Van Brimmer at (404) 589-8424 or adam.vanbrimmer@morris.com.


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