Originally created 08/27/99

Tech coach has yet to name starters



ATLANTA - The Atlantic Coast Conference sportswriters tour rolled into town Friday to question Georgia Tech head Coach George O'Leary and select players about the upcoming season.

A group of approximately 30 reporters held court with O'Leary for close to 40 minutes. A number of questions concerned who will be starting and what is being done to improve the defense.

When asked about Tech's defense allowing close to 400-yards per game, O'Leary said, "I don't worry about yardage. I worry about defense versus the score.

"Looking at yardage doesn't take into account who's in . A lot of the time we were up 35 and the were in. I prefer to look at defense versus the score when you have against ."

O'Leary was also asked why he had not named a first-team place kicker.

Fierce battle has been raging in practice between junior Kai Cornwell, who connected on his only field goal attempt in 1998, and freshmen Luke Manget, a Parade magazine All-American.

"I'm going to call that shot probably next Saturday," said O'Leary with a chuckle. "No, I'll let them know next Thursday (September 2nd). It's close enough for good football.

"I'll tell you what, Manget's impressed me. He really has. He's a cool cat. I put him on the 35 like I do every year, and he made it. If you don't make it everybody runs . He made it, and Cornwell missed - not good."

Finally, O'Leary had some comments about football in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"I think the ACC is probably a lot better football conference then given credit," said O'Leary. "I think every conference has its weak sisters, but when you take the top echelon, year in and year out, they can play with any conference.

"I don't know if we're as strong from top to bottom as some other conferences, but I do think if you take the top five or six teams - and they could be different teams each year - they can play with any conference and play well."

Players on the media's hot seat included: quarterback Joe Hamilton, receiver Dez White, offensive tackle Jon Carmen, tailback Phillip Rogers, and defensive players Felipe Claybrooks at end and Travares Tillman at free safety.

A number of questions concerned the Yellow Jackets second game of the season against Florida State. A Florida reporter was curious about Tech's experience with the Seminoles' trash-talkers.

"They talk," said Hamilton. "I talk, so they're just talking back. By no means is their talk intimidating nor discouraging to us in our game. It's just talk, and it's part of the game."

White added, "Yeah, they like to talk, but its competition, and if you don't like to compete you shouldn't be out there."

Tech had a good game against Florida State through three quarters last season. Trailing 10-7 and without Hamilton for the fourth quarter, the Yellow Jackets allowed 24 unanswered points for the 34-7 final.

Hamilton was asked whether Tech could beat the Seminoles this year.

"Yeah," said Hamilton emphatically. "You have to think that way.

"I think Florida State presents a very tough challenge for us. We haven't beaten them since I've been here, but you have to put the pads on, give it a shot, and just do it. You've got to have everyone believing they can do it."

And does Hamilton think he can win the Heisman Trophy?

"You think about it when you're in your room when you're by yourself," admitted Hamilton. "You definitely don't talk about it with your teammates - don't want to dwell on it.

"You don't want to show your teammates it's a goal of yours because I still stick by the (philosophy) that it's a team goal and only you with your team can win that goal."