ATLANTA -- For the first time since 1993, Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey will be on the sidelines coaching in a college game, and that could lead to some anxious moments during Saturday night's opener against Vanderbilt.
"There's the obvious rule changes - clock stoppage during the 2-minute period, one foot down on catches," Gailey said. "I'll probably flinch when a guy gets one foot down, and I'll have to ask an official why that was complete."
For the past eight seasons, Gailey has been in the NFL, including two years as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. His head coaching experience in college consists of two seasons at Division II Troy State - where he won the national title in 1984 - and a single season at Samford.
But there will be more changes for Gailey than just the rules. In Dallas, he also was an offensive coordinator and called the plays, supervising schemes he designed by studying hours of video tape and meeting with players.
Now, he's simply the head coach, leaving play calling and other duties to assistants Bill O'Brien and Jon Tenuta.
"If you pay attention to one side of the ball so much, you lose sight of the lives on the other side of the ball," Gailey said. "There's a lot more to being a head coach than just deciding whether to go for it on fourth down or punt."
He may have given up some of the headaches, but he also lost some control.
"When you've broken down film and you're involved in the game plan, you feel like you've got a little more control of what's going to happen," he said. "As a head coach, I'm sitting here (talking to reporters) instead of watching film. There's a bit more unknown."
A large piece of the unknown is his team. The Yellow Jackets lost their top passer (George Godsey) and leading rusher (Joe Burns) from last season's team, along with starting fullback Ross Mitchell. Replacing them hasn't been easy.
Transfer A.J. Suggs won the starting job at QB, but he's expected to share time with Damarius Bilbo. Tony Hollings, a converted safety, probably will get the nod at tailback, and Jimmy Dixon moved from tailback to fullback.
The inexperience limits how much information Gailey could give to his players.
"You get a lot more installed when you have people who are returning veterans, who played in the offense ... you ran last year, you get a lot more done," he said. "We were not in either one of those scenarios."
The Commodores are in a similar situation, playing their opener with a new coaching staff but without last year's starting quarterback or tailback. Bobby Johnson, who led Furman to the Division I-AA final a year ago, takes over a program which hasn't had a winning season in 20 years.
His debut comes against a team which has reached five straight bowl games.
"An easier opponent would be easier," Johnson said. "It's all about confidence. If you go down there and play well against a very good opponent, it builds your confidence just as well as if you play so-so against an easier opponent.
"I don't know ... which is better."
It complicates matters that both teams plan to alternate two quarterbacks, although just how much the backups play hasn't been determined. Johnson has named Jay Cutler the starter, with Benji Walker coming off the bench.
"Both of them are going to get playing time," said Vanderbilt wide receiver Dan Stricker, who caught 65 passes in 2001. "It might be 51 (percent) for Jay, 49 for Benji right now, and it might be different after Georgia Tech. I'm very satisfied with both QBs, and both of them are very capable of getting the job done."
Saturday night's game is the first at renovated Bobby Dodd Stadium, with capacity now 43,719, an increase of about 2,000. When the two-year, $70 million project is completed for 2003, the stadium will hold 55,000.
The opener is sold out.
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