New Georgia Tech quarterback not lacking confidence
ATLANTA -- Reggie Ball fakes a handoff into the line, rolls out to the right and flips a pass to Georgia Tech teammate John Paul Foschi, standing all alone in the end zone.
"Way to go, Reggie!" someone yells.
Ball slaps hands with the other members of the offense as they head off the field, having successfully completed the goal-line drill.
Granted, it's only preseason practice, played out in front of a handful of fans perched atop a grassy hill at Rose Bowl Field. For Ball, though, it's a chance to show that he's ready to step right in as the Yellow Jackets' starting quarterback.
Never mind that he graduated from Stephenson High School in suburban DeKalb County just a few months ago. This teenager isn't short on bravado as he steps up to an entirely different level.
"If they need me to be an option quarterback, I can be that. If they need me to be a dropback quarterback, I can be that," Ball said matter-of-factly. "I'll keep the defense on their heels."
He's not even intimidated by Georgia Tech's early schedule, which begins with a trip to BYU on Aug. 28. Nine days later, the Yellow Jackets take on Southeastern Conference favorite Auburn. A week after that, it's off to Tallahassee to meet defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion Florida State.
"I know for that BYU game, I'm going to be a little nervous," he said. "It's only natural to have some jitters early. But I'm going to break out of that, maybe after the first play."
And what about those next two games?
"I'm looking forward to Auburn and Florida State," Ball said, his tone turning serious, "because they overlooked me."
Ball, in fact, thought he was heading to Auburn, which initially promised him a chance to play quarterback. At the last minute, the Tigers backed out on their scholarship offer. He's still ticked off that they left him hanging.
"If they had called me one more time, I would have committed," Ball said. "Then, they just fell off the map. When they stopped calling, that's when Tech came into the picture. It was late, but it turned out to be a perfect choice for me."
The Yellow Jackets were in desperate need for a boost at quarterback, and they were willing to give the cocky freshman a chance to play right away.
Senior A.J. Suggs, who started all 13 games last season, had fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. Sophomore Damarius Bilbo went into fall practice working with the first team, but it was an uneasy arrangement.
Then, last Friday, coach Chan Gailey made a stunning announcement: Bilbo was being moved to another position and Ball, coming off a strong performance in a scrimmage the previous night, would move up to first team.
Gailey has yet to name a starter, but all indications point to Ball becoming the first true freshman to do it at Georgia Tech since Stu Rogers in 1980.
"Reggie has made very few bad decisions," Gailey said. "When you make very few bad decisions and a few good ones, you've got a chance to play quarterback at this level. He's got a very good grasp of the offense for a freshman."
Ball's size -- 5-foot-11, 192 pounds -- caused most major schools to shy away from recruiting him as a quarterback despite his stellar career at Stephenson. As a senior, he passed for more than 2,000 yards with -- and this is the part Gailey likes -- 19 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Ball also showed he could run, piling up 700 yards and 13 touchdowns his junior season.
Several schools talked with him, including Michigan, LSU and Florida State. All used the word "athlete," which basically means they weren't sure which position he should play -- but it wouldn't be quarterback in all likelihood.
Ball didn't want to walk away from the spot he had played throughout high school.
"I see the quarterback as the leader of the team," he said. "Throughout high school, junior high, I've always had natural leadership ability. I knew I wanted to take that to the next level. I wanted to go to a school where I would have a chance to be that leader."
He scoffs at those who don't think he's tall enough to be a major-college quarterback. What about Doug Flutie? And Joe Hamilton, who was only 5-10 but starred at Georgia Tech?
"They weren't that tall, but they never had any trouble getting the ball over the line," Ball said. "Look at Mike Vick, for that matter. He isn't the tallest guy in the world, either. I'm not worried about that."
Ball doesn't seem worried about much of anything.
"If a defense wants to drop back into a zone, I'll take off and run with it. If they go man-to-man, I'll pick them apart," he said. "I bring everything to the table."
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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