ATLANTA - One minute everything seems easy for Reuben Houston. The next everything seems impossible.
But no matter what, the freshman defensive back won't be caught flat-footed.
"Every day, every minute seems overwhelming," Houston said as Georgia Tech completed its second workout in full pads Friday night. "When you're a freshman, it's all overwhelming.
"But when I get caught not knowing what's going on, I still go full speed. I'm going to get yelled at anyway, so I better be going full speed."
Houston's hustle hasn't gone unnoticed. Coach George O'Leary said a handful of first-year players, including Houston, have made good impressions with the coaching staff during the first week of drills.
"They're all starting to separate themselves now as far as some of the young players who can possibly help us and others who just need a little bit more maturity," O'Leary said.
The 10th-ranked Yellow Jackets, who open against Syracuse in the Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium on Aug. 26, have 18 starters returning from a team that went 9-3 a year ago. While they don't need a lot of help, several true freshmen have put themselves in position to earn some playing time.
Offensive tackle Nat Dorsey, a hulking 6-foot-6, 315-pound freshman from New Orleans, has been most impressive. He's already working out with the second team offense and seems more at ease with each session.
"It's been fun," Dorsey said. "It's a challenge to me. I still get lost sometimes, but it pushes me to work even harder."
Like most freshmen, Dorsey has been surprised by the step from high school football to the college level. He played against all-star players a couple times a year in high school, and now he faces all-star caliber on every play. The speed and intensity of every play also has been a dramatic change.
"When you go against guys like (defensive ends) Nick Rogers and Greg Gathers on every play, it makes you a better player," Dorsey said. "My goal is to make the travelling squad."
According to O'Leary, Dorsey may be close to achieving that goal.
"Nat Dorsey has been impressive, and I want to see him with everything flying around," he said. "Dorsey has really caught me eye. He's a young freshmen, just 17. He has a great natural tuck for pass protection, which a lot of freshmen don't have. And he has good feet for a young kid, which great quickness and good foot speed. I've been impressed with him. I think he has everything you're looking for in a pass protector. He just has to learn who and how."
Andy Tidwell-Neal (6-4, 280) and Kyle Wallace (6-5, 280) also have worked with the second team offensive line.
"With those freshmen linemen, the thing that gets them is pass protection," O'Leary said. "As far as run-blocking, they'll continue to get better. But coming out of high school, very few of them have thrown the ball enough to have pass-blocking down.
"You have to be able to pass protect in college. There are some good players in the group. Whether they are ready this year or not, we'll find out."
Houston has been getting a lot of work in the defensive secondary.
"This is harder than high school," Houston said. "This is faster than high school. There's a lot to learn at this level. My goal is to learn as much as possible and not to red-shirt my freshman season. I want to help the team right now. It's a little overwhelming at times, but it's coming around."