Originally created 03/19/00

Tech begins 'life after Joe'



ATLANTA -- Look at the spring depth chart for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and you'll see some very telling notes beside the listings for quarterback.

The listed No. 1 signal caller, junior George Godsey, completed 5 of 13 passes for 57 yards in six appearances in 1999.

No. 2, sophomore Jermaine Crenshaw, caught three passes for 33 yards as a wide receiver.

If you were looking for a theme for the Jackets' spring drills, which begin today at Bobby Dodd Stadium, it might be "Welcome to life after Joe Hamilton."

The position of quarterback becomes an even bigger point of emphasis considering Tech's first three games, which include dates with Virginia Tech and Florida State, the two teams from January's national championship game. There's no Appalachian State for the new starter to cut his teeth on. This will be a baptism by fire.

"We've got to go out and settle who the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 quarterbacks are," said Tech coach George O'Leary. "We can't go into the fall and have it be tryouts."

Godsey would appear to be the early favorite to replace Hamilton, having the most experience, but Crenshaw will get a look during the spring.

"He was recruited as QB; he came to me and told me he'd like the opportunity to play there," O'Leary said. "He caught some critical balls for us, but I think he deserves a chance at this."

Hamilton finished as runner-up in the Heisman Trophy race after amassing 3,794 total yards, and conventional wisdom held that the Jackets' porous defense kept him from winning it.

"We've got some awful big shoes to fill in Joe Hamilton," O'Leary said. "They're little shoes, but they're good shoes. This team has to establish their own identity. You lose one player, but we have ample good young talent."

The Jackets allowed 30 points and 379 yards per game, and in three of their last five games, their opponent scored more than 40 points. In their last win, they yielded 48 points, and they surrendered a 20-point lead to Virginia in a frustrating loss.

Still, O'Leary said it wasn't as bad as some think.

"It's not that the effort wasn't there," he said. "You look at the films, and most of the time we were in position to make the play. We just didn't get it done."

Even so, O'Leary has taken steps to make his defensive front more active. Nick Rogers and Kelvin Hughley, linebackers last year, have moved to defensive end.

"We need more speed guys on the edges," O'Leary said. "We felt those two help make us faster there."

He was able to make that move because of the return of Matt Miller, a 1998 starter who missed the 1999 season with a broken ankle, and the restored eligibility of Arizona State transfer Cody Price.

A stronger running game could help, a fact offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen fully recognizes.

"We've got to make more first downs," Friedgen said.

Question marks aside, O'Leary has reason to smile entering spring practice. Running back Joe Burns, who injured his knee in the Florida State game last year, is healthy. His presence could ease the loss of Hamilton on the offensive side.

"I've never had a young player be so well respected by his teammates," O'Leary said. "Everybody wants to play. Joe loves to play. It shows, and that carries over to the other players."

Though fullback Ed Wilder will miss spring drills while recovering from knee surgery, O'Leary feels good about his corps of runners.