There were no disgruntled fans or lopsided scoreboards. Just a sunny morning, a pristine practice field and the beginnings of a new season with a made-over coaching staff and an infusion of transfers and freshmen.

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The departure of players through the transfer portal and the turnover of the staff that have been themes of Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins’ offseason yielded Thursday morning to clear skies and the start of his fourth spring practice.

“I always get excited for (the start of practice),” Collins said. “The outfit that you see right now (Collins was in his coaching gear) is the outfit that I slept in last night. And just fired up to get out there and get on the field with the guys. We’ve been doing the offseason workouts, and the guys work really hard and all those things, but when there’s a football being thrown around and you’re rocking that ‘GT’ gold helmet, and you’re running around playing football, amps it up even more.”

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Defensive backs coach Travares Tillman talks with players during the first day of spring practice for Georgia Tech football on Thursday at Alexander Rose Bowl Field. (Photo Jenn Finch)

Credit: Jenn Finch

Defensive backs coach Travares Tillman talks with players during the first day of spring practice for Georgia Tech football on Thursday at Alexander Rose Bowl Field. (Photo Jenn Finch)

Credit: Jenn Finch

Combined ShapeCaption
Defensive backs coach Travares Tillman talks with players during the first day of spring practice for Georgia Tech football on Thursday at Alexander Rose Bowl Field. (Photo Jenn Finch)

Credit: Jenn Finch

Credit: Jenn Finch

The first of 15 spring practice sessions looked familiar to practices that Collins has led throughout his tenure. Coaches shouted orders and corrections, none louder than offensive line coach Brent Key’s salty blasts. The 11-on-11 period carried an air of urgency. Collins, as always, took part in leading drills for the secondary and special teams.

But plenty was different, too. Fixtures of past seasons, such as safeties Tariq Carpenter and Juanyeh Thomas (both pursuing the NFL), running backs Jahmyr Gibbs and Jordan Mason (transferred to Alabama and turned pro, respectively) and those players’ position coaches (Nathan Burton and Tashard Choice) have moved on.

In their place were the likes of safety Kaleb Edwards, transfer running back Hassan Hall, new secondary coach Travares Tillman and new running backs coach Mike Daniels.

“A lot of time, a lot of investment into getting to know each other, getting to know the schematics, getting to know the way we’re going to play on both sides of the ball,” Collins said. “I thought they hit the ground running.”

Collins said that, on Wednesday, returning staff took new coaches such as Tillman and Daniels to Alexander Rose Bowl Field to show them the layout of the practice fields and the various landmarks and where various drills are executed.

Perhaps more significant, new offensive coordinator Chip Long began his first practice teaching the scheme that the Jackets offense will operate. Long has said that the tempo, the demands of coaches, the effort required in practice and the physicality of the scheme will be different than it had been with former offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude, who was dismissed after three seasons with Collins.

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Linebacker Charlie Thomas laughs on the sidelines during the first day of spring practice for Georgia Tech football. (Photo Jenn Finch)

Credit: Jenn Finch

Linebacker Charlie Thomas laughs on the sidelines during the first day of spring practice for Georgia Tech football. (Photo Jenn Finch)

Credit: Jenn Finch

Combined ShapeCaption
Linebacker Charlie Thomas laughs on the sidelines during the first day of spring practice for Georgia Tech football. (Photo Jenn Finch)

Credit: Jenn Finch

Credit: Jenn Finch

While Thursday’s practice was conducted with players in soft shoulder pads, shorts and helmets, “I thought the attitude, the demeanor was the right tone for Day 1 of spring ball,” Collins said.

Collins said he was excited to see running back Dontae Smith, the team’s leading returning rusher, step into a leadership role. Hall, a transfer from Louisville, showed off his game-breaking speed in his first practice.

Collins spoke to the number of departures of players through the portal (12 since the end of the season, which is not an unusual number, but did include key players, most notably the All-American Gibbs) and coaches who left for other positions, saying he did not view it as a rejection of him and his team.

“I just take it as, we love those guys, we care about those guys,” Collins said. “If they feel there’s another situation that they need to (go to), we counsel ‘em, have conversations with them, but then you have to look to the guys that are on your roster, on your team, in your program, that you’re blessed every single day to get to coach and focus on that and keep it moving.”

On Thursday, Daniels trained the running backs on lateral agility. New assistant head coach for defense David Turner tutored defensive tackles on pass-rush moves. Tillman shared a drill with Collins as defensive backs worked on their footwork. New quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke observed Jeff Sims, Zach Gibson and Zach Pyron as they went through reads and made their throws in a seven-on-seven drill.

“You have love and care for (players who’ve left), but the guys that we’ve been able to add, the guys that are on the roster, just excited the way they come to work, the way they’re focused, the way they’re building bonds within this organization,” Collins said. “They went out there and put in some really good work (Thursday). And the challenge to them is to keep building, keep growing closer together, so (they) play really good football come the fall.”