While many of its competitors are just getting started with spring practice, Georgia Tech completed the bulk of its spring workouts Thursday night. In the annual spring game, the Yellow Jackets looked like a group that was getting better from its 3-9 season a year ago, but also was in the process of learning new schemes and trying to replace many of the top playmakers lost from the 2021 team.

“I thought we’ve gotten better every single practice, and that’s what we’ve got to do all the way up until toe meets leather Sept. 5 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium vs. a really good Clemson football team,” coach Geoff Collins said. “But there were some really positive things out there (Thursday).”

Calling it a “game” might challenge the definition of the word. For example, fans occupied the north end of Bobby Dodd Stadium from the end zone out to the 20-yard line, sipping on drinks with some lounging on outdoor furniture watching television.

But fans (there were perhaps 1,000 in attendance, including many prospects and their families) did get to see something approximating a scrimmage, with the Jackets offense going against the defense for a little more than an hour (heading to the south end zone) with no score kept.

Quarterback Jeff Sims made some impressive throws, multiple defensive players made disruptive plays and the Jackets’ two kickers (Jude Kelley and Gavin Stewart) were a combined 5-for-5.

The Tech fans enjoying a pleasant spring evening might have seen them as steps in their team advancing past its nine wins in the past three seasons and play last year that resulted in the dismissal of three assistant coaches, including offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude.



In the team’s first public showing since Collins hired Chip Long to be the new offensive coordinator, the Jackets showed different formations and worked on the numerous offensive-line protections of Long. Sims took several snaps from under center, a break from the shotgun formations that Tech played almost exclusively from over the past three seasons.

Even in the 7-on-7 periods that preceded the scrimmage portion of the two-hour practice, Sims at his best looked decisive and threw accurately. On four consecutive throws in 7-on-7, he found slot receiver Nate McCollum down the seam, hit wide receiver Malachi Carter on another downfield throw, delivered a strike for receiver Ryan King as he ran downfield and then arced a long pass to receiver D.J. Moore into the end zone that the freshman could not hold onto.

Other throws weren’t as accurate, and other pass plays the protection didn’t hold up.

In the scrimmage, leading the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense, Sims had mixed results, completing eight of 16 passes for 66 yards with no touchdowns but also no interceptions. The Tech secondary certainly was a factor, challenging Sims with tight pass coverages.

“I definitely feel like I got more comfortable with the offense (over the course of the spring),” Sims said. “There’s still a lot of things to learn. I would say it was a little up and down (Thursday). I had some good things that I did and I had some bad things that I did. That just goes into going hard in the playbook and just learning it more and getting more and more comfortable with it every day.”



Working with the No. 2 offensive unit and against the No. 2 defense, backup quarterback Zach Gibson completed 12 of 20 passes for 177 yards. He took advantage of what appeared to be coverage breakdowns for touchdown passes to receiver Jamal Haynes (37 yards) and Moore (10 yards).

In the scrimmage, defensive tackle Makius Scott and linebacker Charlie Thomas were among those puncturing the pocket and either flushing Sims out of the pocket or tagging him to end the play.

In a sign that either the run game needs continued work after losing three starters from the offensive line (as well as All-American running back Jahmyr Gibbs) or the defensive front has improved (or both), running back Dontae Smith was held to 14 yards on three carries while Hassan Hall, the grad transfer from Louisville, ran six times for 15 yards.



The defense, under the continued direction of defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker, has been working on its own tweaks to its scheme.

“There’s definitely some stuff we’ve got to clean up, get to and fix and everything,” linebacker Ayinde Eley said, “but I feel like for just putting in some things, there’s some new things that are going on smooth and everybody’s taking the learning curve at a good rate. I feel like the execution level was high, so that’s always good. It’s just going to take more reps and just continue to clean up those little things and things that need to be fixed.”

Defensive back Kenyatta Watson, who has had health challenges since his transfer from Texas before the 2021 season, ended the scrimmage with an interception of walk-on quarterback Brody Rhodes.

“His quote to me before we took the field: ‘Coach, I just want to be out there working with my teammates, playing with my teammates,’ and that selfless attitude, it shows up in production,” Collins said of Watson. “That’s always a really good thing.”

Tech players will have next week off for spring break, but then will have two more practices upon their return. Collins chose to have spring practice about a month earlier than normal in large part to get back on the field as soon as possible after last year’s horrendous finish.