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Choice makes speedy return from surgery

ATLANTA - To best appreciate the production of Tashard Choice when healthy, consider the time the senior has missed through Georgia Tech's nine games.

Choice was held to a combined 20 carries for 50 yards rushing in two games due to a hamstring injury. He missed one game and half of another with a knee injury that required surgery.

Even so, Choice still leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing, both in total yards and average per game.

Choice has rushed for 864 yards, an average of 108 per game despite the hamstring injury which helped limit him to 31 yards against Boston College and 19 on only five carries against Virginia.

Choice barely played against Virginia, missed the fourth quarter against Boston College, played only one half before hurting his knee against Army and missed last week's Virginia Tech game and STILL he has 66 more yards than runner-up James Davis of Clemson.

It's no wonder the Yellow Jackets are ecstatic about having Choice back for Saturday's game at Duke.

Choice had the biggest smile of all when he made his return to practice on Tuesday and proclaimed he was ready for 30 to 35 carries against the Blue Devils.

'I'm good. I'm good to go,' Choice said. 'I'm ready to go where I left off. I'm happy to be back out here with the fellas, happy to be out here with my teammates.'

Choice was in uniform for the Virginia Tech game, but only to serve as a team captain. He said he may have been closer to game-ready for the Thursday night game than many believed, however.

'I believe if I had Saturday, one more day, I would have been ready to go,' he said. 'Hey, you can only control what you can control. I'll be out here for Duke.'

Choice's return comes as Georgia Tech (5-4 overall, 2-4 ACC) is trying to recover from the disappointment of being eliminated from the Coastal Division race in the conference.

Choice also hopes to give the offense a confidence boost after quarterback Taylor Bennett threw four interceptions in the 27-3 loss to Virginia Tech.

The always effusive Choice said he made sure spirits were back up following the loss, especially with the junior quarterback.

'Oh yeah, I was in his face, letting him know he's still got big things ahead of him,' Choice said. 'He can't let that one loss damage how he feels about himself as a quarterback.

'He's going to have ups and downs. That's just part of the position. People are going to like you one day and hate you the next. That just comes with being a quarterback.'

Bennett said he may have tried too hard to make up for the absence of Choice.

'Everyone said if he's not here it's on me,' Bennett said. 'It was still a team effort. You've still got to have a running back to run the ball and a quarterback to throw the ball and receivers to catch it.

'I wasn't trying to make plays, thinking 'Oh my gosh, this game is on my shoulders,' but it's different without your starting running back there. We're just glad to have him back.'

Freshman Jonathan Dwyer led Tech with 10 carries for 68 yards last week. Backup quarterback Josh Nesbitt added 32 yards rushing.

The return of Choice should bring the return of Tech's normal ACC-leading running attack.

Choice had 30 or more carries in three straight games in which he rushed for 145 yards against Clemson, 135 against Maryland and 204 at Miami.

Tech coach Chan Gailey called the senior's recovery 'amazing,' but said he hoped Choice wouldn't be needed for more than 30 carries this week.

'I'm not going to say never with him, OK?' Gailey said. 'I hope it doesn't come to that and that would not be the plan, but I'm not going to say never.'