ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich and coach Paul Johnson said Friday they are especially ready for Thursday night's opening game against Western Carolina.
After a long year for the athletic department, a new season brings a needed fresh start.
Georgia Tech finished 6-7 last season with losses in five of its last six games. Radakovich fired basketball coach Paul Hewitt in March. Then the NCAA placed Georgia Tech on probation this summer and said it must vacate its 2009 ACC championship.
There was no direct mention of the NCAA sanctions during Friday's kickoff luncheon for fans. Radakovich said he was glad the opener was less than a week away.
"Certainly after the last few months, it couldn't come quick enough," Radakovich said.
Former center Sean Bedford, the featured speaker, came close to talking about the NCAA penalties.
"Regardless of what an investigative committee with no independent oversight might tell you, Georgia Tech does things the right way," Bedford said.
Georgia Tech, also fined $100,000 by the NCAA, has said it will appeal the penalties.
Johnson must replacing quarterback Joshua Nesbitt and running back Anthony Allen. He said this may be his most talented team in his four years in Atlanta.
"I actually believe we might be as talented or more talented athletically and physically that we've been since I've been here," he said.
The 6-7 finish was Johnson's first losing season since a 2-10 record in his 2002 debut at Navy. It was Georgia Tech's first losing season since finishing 5-6 under coach George O'Leary in 1996.
Johnson his players better be mad.
"We've got a lot of reasons to be in that mode and if we're not, I'm going to be really disappointed and I'm going to make sure they get in that mode fairly quickly," said Johnson, who was greeted by a standing ovation from fans.
Johnson said his players are anxious to play.
"I think we're coming out of camp at the right time," he said. "If we had to wait two more weeks to play, I don't know that I could manage it."
He said he threw his players and assistant coaches off the field with about 5 minutes still scheduled to be played in a scrimmage on Thursday.
"I didn't know that they were playing with the kind of urgency that I need them to," he said.
"It's the end of camp and that's the kind of message I'm trying to send. It's a message of urgency, nobody respects you, nobody thinks you can do anything, so it's up to you to prove them wrong."