Tech notes: Tech, Irish prep for opener on best guesses

ATLANTA - Notre Dame has Georgia Tech guessing this week.

About a quarterback: The Irish have yet to name a starting quarterback and speculation is they will use at least two players with contrasting styles - one a runner, the other a passer - at the position.

About a defensive scheme: Notre Dame changed defensive coordinators in the offseason and will operate out of a 3-4 formation (three linemen, four linebackers) rather than a 4-3 as they did a year ago.

About what tricks head coach Charlie Weis has planned for Saturday's season opener in South Bend, Ind.: With eight months to scheme, Weis will surely have a wrinkle or two.

"Unless you have a totally new head coach, this is about as much guesswork as you can have going into a season," Yellow Jacket coach Chan Gailey said.

Georgia Tech should be a mystery to the Irish, too. The Yellow Jackets have a new offensive coordinator in John Bond, a new quarterback in Taylor Bennett and a group of wide receivers that no longer includes Calvin Johnson.

And the Jackets return eight starters to a defense that held the Irish to 14 points last season. The only other team to hold Notre Dame to that few points was LSU in the Sugar Bowl.

"Whatever they throw out there, we're going to be prepared for it," Georgia Tech linebacker Philip Wheeler said.

Corners not cowering

Georgia Tech's cornerback situation has arguably been the biggest cause for concern this offseason.

Three players split time at the spots in 2006. None of them emerged as a certain starter for 2007. The uncertainty continued into spring practice, with Gailey saying "we're at the same level we were in the fall" on the eve of the spring game.

Those doubts drove the corners all summer and into the preseason, though. Jahi Word-Daniels and Avery Roberson will start at cornerback against Notre Dame, and they are on what Word-Daniels calls "a mission."

"We're out to prove to everybody you better not think you're just going to be able to throw the ball up and move it on us," Word-Daniels said. "It's not going to happen."

Word-Daniels showed that in preseason camp, performing well against Georgia Tech's deep and talented group of receivers. And Roberson made several big plays, including an interception in the preseason's first scrimmage.

Depth could be an issue, however. Backup Pat Clark is still dealing with an academic issue and won't play Saturday unless it is resolved. The next two corners on the depth chart are redshirt freshman Dominique Reese and true freshman Mario Butler.

Jackets to put spin on rally sign

Holding four fingers in the air at the start of the fourth quarter is a popular recent trend with football teams, a way to remind themselves and teammates the fourth quarter is the most important of the game.

But the ploy didn't work for the Yellow Jackets last year: They led in the fourth quarter in three losses. So Georgia Tech will put a spin on it Saturday, holding up four fingers at the start of the game, three at the start of the second quarter, and so on.

"When the fourth quarter comes we'll put one finger in the air to remind ourselves we still have one to go," tailback Tashard Choice said. "Everybody talks about four quarters, but last year we didn't play four quarters. There were weeks where we only played about three. We have to make sure we finish."

Mystique won't spook Yellow Jackets

Notre Dame Stadium is among the most intimidating venues in college football, with its cramped sidelines and "Touchdown Jesus" overlooking one end zone.

But the setting is no big deal, Jacket players said. They cited recent wins at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium, Miami's Orange Bowl and Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium as reasons for confidence.

"Our guys have been in some pretty tough places to play in and have been successful," Gailey said, "so I don't think I have to go make a long speech about the Four Horsemen or anything."


' When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

' Where: North Bend, Ind.

' TV/Radio: NBC/790-AM