ATLANTA -- Reggie Ball set freshman records for passing yards, completions and total yards in his first season at Georgia Tech, all while taking each snap from under center.
Imagine what he might be able to do with the help of the shotgun.
The Yellow Jackets didn't use that formation last season, mainly because center Hugh Reilly had a difficult time with the deep snap. This spring, with Reilly gone, replacements Andy Tidwell-Neal and Kevin Tuminello haven't had any problems.
And neither has Ball.
"I ran everything in high school but the Wing-T," the ever-confident quarterback said. "I'm used to the shotgun, but it's a different thing on the college level, I'll tell you that."
Getting the ball to the speedy, 5-foot-10 Ball well behind the line of scrimmage likely will give him more time to make decisions and open up more running and passing lanes for him.
"It gets the ball in Reggie's hands deeper, quicker," Yellow Jackets coach Chan Gailey said. "He can wheel and deal a little big quicker there, a little bit better there."
The Rookie of the Year in the Atlantic Coast Conference completed 51 percent of his passes for 1,996 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2003, and also was second on the team with 384 yards rushing. He led Georgia Tech to its seventh straight bowl - even though he missed much of the 52-10 victory over Tulsa in the Humanitarian Bowl with an injury - and a 7-6 record.
During the season, he added five rookie of the week awards from the ACC, and helped the Yellow Jackets upset Auburn in the second game. Pretty heady stuff for a 19-year-old right out of high school, right?
"Finishing 7-6 ain't nothing to get accolades over," Ball said. "I wasn't happy with that, and neither were my teammates. We want to improve on that this coming year."
That starts in spring practice. Ball has spent most of the drills in the shotgun, and since at this point he has no pressure from his backups, he's gotten most of the repetitions. While he grudgingly admits he was happy with how he played last season, Ball stresses he needs to improve in many areas.
Footwork, timing and field vision are all things he mentioned, and he's worked hard on those weaknesses so far.
"That's the great thing about Reggie, nobody on this team is going to outwork him," newly promoted offensive coordinator Patrick Nix said. "I think the other guys see that, and it can't help but rub off on them a little."
Even as a freshman, Ball was a leader on the team. He boasted after an early season loss to Florida State that Georgia Tech wouldn't lose any more games, a prediction that soon ended up on the bulletin board of every other team in the ACC.
But his coaches and teammates were quick to point out that it was simply "Reggie being Reggie," and it was competitiveness, not cockiness, that led him to make that statement and many others like it.
Besides, who wouldn't want a quarterback to have such a strong belief in his team?
"I think he has taken upon himself to be a more vocal leader this year," Nix said. "He seems to be much more into helping guys get where they need to go, things like that."
Gailey also noticed Ball's maturity.
"He's doing a nice job," Gailey said. "He's focused on what he needs to get done to lead this football team."
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