Georgia Tech counting on Jeff Sims-Chris Weinke pairing

Of the many endorsement deals that have come Jeff Sims’ way, his favorite is a relatively modest one. It’s with Ethika, a clothing brand. In exchange for social-media posts, he gets free underwear.

Why is it his favorite?

“Because I don’t have to go out there and buy underwear anymore,” Sims said, sensibly.

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Being the starting quarterback for Georgia Tech has opened doors for Sims, not least one that has provided him with complimentary underpants.

“You get a big box, and then I post it thanking them, and they just keep giving it out,” Sims said.

With the start of his third season at Tech days away, Sims finds himself appreciative of a different partnership, one that doesn’t ply him with boxes of boxers but that has been profitable nonetheless. That would be his association with new quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke.

“Coach Weinke, he’s a guy that, he doesn’t let me lose focus at all,” Sims said. “Whenever he feels like I’m starting to veer off in practice, he gets on me.”

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Weinke, a former Florida State star who was hired by coach Geoff Collins in January following the dismissal of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dave Patenaude, has provided a different sort of mentorship to Sims. One, where Patenaude ran the offense and also was Sims’ position coach, Weinke is responsible only for quarterbacks, while Chip Long oversees the offense (and coaches tight ends). Two, Weinke has brought an edge to his coaching of Sims, one that he has evidently taken to.

“He’s a hard coach, but it’s always good because when you make a good play, he’s in your ear telling you things that you did right,” Sims said. “And when you make a bad play, he’s in your ear telling you things that you did wrong.”

With Patenaude, Sims progressed from his first season to the second. His completion percentage, touchdown/interception rate and yards-per-attempt average all improved significantly. Collins is trusting that the pairing of Long and Weinke – coaches whom Collins said he hired with Sims specifically in mind – can take him even higher. In a season in which the coaching staff’s continued employment depends on the Yellow Jackets making progress from three consecutive three-win seasons and the offense lost several key pieces, Tech is heavily reliant upon Sims making a significant jump.

“All eyes are on him in that (quarterback meeting) room and what we can do to make him comfortable and make him a successful player – that’s all we think about,” Long said. “Our entire universe in our offensive staff room starts with the quarterback, and then we figure it out from there.”

That focus has been magnified by Collins’ decision to have a quarterbacks coach with no coordinating duties to take away from his attention to Sims and the backup quarterbacks. That Weinke and Sims appear to have connected well has only further validated Collins’ decision.

“He’s a great dude,” Sims said. “The thing about him, his biggest thing, when he first got here was to build a relationship with us before he started coaching us hard, because when he rips us, we know that he cares about us, and we know that it’s coming from a good spot. He’s definitely a great coach.”

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Weinke has worked with Sims on learning Long’s playbook, making decisions in the pocket, technique and leadership. While the season will be the ultimate verdict, Sims has appeared in the preseason to have made progress in making pinpoint throws and finding the right targets.

In a recent red-zone drill, in which receivers and tight ends went one-on-one against defensive backs, Sims was impressive in making on-target deliveries on fades to the back corner of the end zone.

“He’s getting better and better,” linebacker Charlie Thomas said. “He’s going to shock a lot of people this year. I like 10.”

Said Long, “Like any quarterback, you’re going to have good and bad days, but he’s been very impressive, just running the operation, being another coach out there and gluing things together for me. It’s been really nice.”

The Weinke-Sims pairing has the approval of someone with a unique perspective. Former Georgia coach Mark Richt was Weinke’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Florida State, helping him win the Heisman Trophy in 2000, and as an ACC Network analyst has watched Sims’ two seasons at Tech.

“Jeff Sims is a great talent,” Richt told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Even the best quarterbacks need guidance and need a process of how to think and how to progress and how to make decisions and just fundamentals. There’s so many things. I know Chris is a stickler on detail, and he’s going to help that kid.”

Weinke said he sees a sense of comfort and confidence in Sims, an increasing understanding of Long’s offense and a growing leadership role.

“He’s throwing the ball as good as I’ve seen him throw it,” Weinke said. “So I feel good about where he’s at. He knows he still needs to continue work, and we’re moving in the right direction.”

Weinke said a lot of conversations with Sims have dwelt on responding to poor practices.

“Whatever the result is, can we stay even-keeled and continue to move forward?” Weinke said. “And he’s done an outstanding job.”

Should this arrangement work, Collins will have his former employer to thank. When Long took the job, Tech already had a tight ends coach in Chris Wiesehan. Long’s initial title was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, a role he had had only once in his career (at his most recent position, at Tulane). But when Wiesehan accepted a job coaching the offensive line at Temple – where he had been before coming to Tech with Collins – it enabled Long to slide over to tight ends, his area of expertise, and opened a spot for a quarterbacks coach.

News of Wiesehan’s hire at Temple broke Jan. 2. Word of Weinke’s hire followed later the same day. Weinke had lost his job as quarterbacks coach at Tennessee after the 2020 season as part of a regime change and had spent 2021 as a private quarterbacks coach and helping out at a south Florida high school.

It has reunited Weinke with Long, who had been an offensive analyst at Tennessee in 2020, and connected Weinke with a quarterback in need of a tutor.

“He’s always going to be there to coach you,” Sims said. “He’s been a good guy to have in my ear and just helping me out along the way.”