This won’t be a typical preseason in many ways for the Georgia Tech football team. The biggest change will occur because the opening game is being held in Ireland. That compresses the preparation schedule and puts the final week of the preseason on the fast track.
The Yellow Jackets will be a long way from sleeping in their own beds when they open the season Sept. 3 against Boston College.
“The bottom line is, it’s a conference game, conference opener,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “We’re going over there with a mindset to try to win the football game. That’s No. 1.”
Most of the logistics have been worked out for months. Most of the players had never been out of the country and needed to apply for passports. They’ll watch cars drive on the wrong side of the road, experience the joy of small hotel rooms with undersized showers and enjoy the gracious hospitality of their Irish hosts.
“It will be a different experience,” quarterback Justin Thomas said. “I’ve never been anywhere out of the country, so it will be different, just seeing how people live, how they do things over there.”
Don’t get the idea that this will be pleasure trip for the Yellow Jackets. Johnson said he will keep the schedule as normal as possible. Organizers gave Georgia Tech the option to leave a day earlier, but Johnson will have practice Wednesday night in Atlanta before leaving.
“We’ll get in there Thursday morning,” he said. “Maybe we’ll get to tour a little bit on Friday, let them see some things. Then we’re right back after the game because we play the next Saturday. It’s going to be a really quick trip.”
Thomas said, “Our main goal is to go there to win. Everything outside of that, it will be great to see and great to do. But without winning, it won’t be the same.”
It marks only the second time in Johnson’s nine-year tenure that Georgia Tech has opened the season against an ACC opponent. The other time came in 2012 against Virginia Tech on a Monday night in Blacksburg. The Yellow Jackets lost that game in overtime and went on to finish 7-7.
“You would probably rather not have a conference game out of the chute,” Johnson said. “I think it’s good to play an opponent, a tough opponent. I don’t mind doing that at all. Just the logistics of traveling outside the country for a first game, a conference opener, makes you a little nervous.”
It is unfortunate that the team won’t be able to have more time in the country. The second game of the season is against Mercer, and Johnson wants to keep the team on its regular schedule as much as possible.
“But our guys are excited about going and excited about having a chance to play in Ireland,” Johnson said. “I’ve decided I’m going to be excited with them. We’re going to go over there and do the best we can to represent Georgia Tech and the ACC and hopefully come back with a win.”
Of note: There were 105 players who reported to camp Wednesday. Because of their hard work during the summer, Johnson canceled the running tests that are always held on the first day of practice. “I can see by looking at you that you’ve worked hard and are in great shape,” he said. … Fifth-year offensive lineman Michael Muns was awarded a full scholarship for this final season. The Swainsboro graduate has been a walk-on for his first four seasons. Muns played in two games last year.