Originally created 11/16/00

O'Leary success credited to depth



ATLANTA -- The Georgia Tech football team can credit much of its recent success to an early-season failure.

In the Yellow Jackets' last loss, a 30-23 overtime setback at North Carolina State on Sept. 21, coach George O'Leary saw a lot of players with their hands on their knees gasping for breath in the second half.

He quickly made up his mind. He had to ensure more players saw action.

The numbers bore O'Leary out. In that game, the Jackets utilized only 28 players.

"I thought we looked tired at the end of the game," he said. "We had too many kids who needed to see the field for a lot of reasons."

Even before then, O'Leary felt the need to use more people, pointing out that running back Joe Burns took part in 80 plays in the Jackets' 21-17 win over Central Florida.

"For what we ask him to do, that's way too many plays," O'Leary said.

So O'Leary issued a mandate to his assistant coaches: Play more people.

He did so even though circumstances in the N.C. State game dictated speedier players on the Georgia Tech defense.

"They were running a spread offense, so we felt like we had to keep our speed guys in there," O'Leary said.

Since then, the Jackets have played nearly 60 players per game, and they've surfed that wave of people to five straight wins and a No. 20 ranking in the Associated Press poll.

"It's better for morale and it's better for practice," O'Leary said. "Kids are more involved if they feel they have a role."