Age disparity striking in BYU-Georgia Tech matchup
ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech has 11 freshmen on its two-deep roster, including starting quarterback Reggie Ball. BYU has a 23-year-old quarterback and 38 players who are married.
That disparity in maturity could prove to be the difference Thursday night in the season opener for both teams. Thanks to injuries and academic difficulties, the Yellow Jackets will rotate eight freshmen and sophomores on the defensive line, with more inexperienced players at defensive back.
"I think most everybody in college football would like to be playing with 23-, 24-, 25-year-olds, rather than 20-, 21-, 22-year-olds," Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey said. "Everybody would like that."
Ball, who won the job over returning starter A.J. Suggs, is the first true freshman in school history to start a season opener. Conversely, the Cougars have eight players who already have children, and another four whose wives are expecting.
"There's a maturity level that happens to a guy," Gailey said. "He can handle difficulties. If you're up changing diapers at two o'clock in the morning, you can handle blocking somebody.
"They do have a maturity level that is pretty good."
BYU is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the religion's emphasis on family leads many members to marriage by their early 20s. About 80 percent of the players on this year's team are members of the church, including starting quarterback Matt Berry.
Berry took a two-year mission to Panama after redshirting in 1999 and came back to the school in time for spring practice in 2002. At 23, he's older than nearly everyone on Georgia Tech's roster.
And he's only a sophomore.
"I haven't been around a lot of other teams for an extended period of time, but I think there is a difference in maturity level," Berry said. "I think it's an asset. I think there's a big difference."
The edge, if there is one, is nothing new to the Cougars.
"It's just as much the age as it is the style of life," coach Gary Crowton said about his team's makeup.
Crowton should know. A member of the church, too, he went on a two-year mission to South Korea in 1979. He's been married for 18 years and has seven children, including 1-year-old Macloud.
After playing a Snow College and Colorado State, he graduated from BYU in 1983, and returned to his alma mater in 2001. But he said he still deals with the same problems as every other coach, just on a smaller scale.
"You don't have to worry as much about the players getting in trouble," he said.
Having a family while playing in college is a foreign concept to Georgia Tech tight end John Paul Foschi. A 21-year-old senior who played as a freshman, he has enough struggles with school and practice.
"I don't know how they do it," he said. "I have too much work. I don't have any money, either. I don't know how I could manage a family right now."
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index