On a night intended for fun and good feeling, Georgia Tech quarterback Jeff Sims brought a satisfying end to the Yellow Jackets’ spring practice.

After a freshman season in which he showed plenty of promise but also accumulated his share of mistakes, Sims was called on to lead a two-minute drill for the offense at the end of the Jackets’ spring game Friday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium. For whatever it’s worth in a spring game, his Gold team was down 25-24.

Starting at his own 35, Sims started by firing a completion to the sideline to wide receiver Adonicas Sanders for 12 yards. On the next play, Sims may have thrown an illegal forward pass, stepping up in the pocket and then shoveling an underhand pass to slot receiver Kyric McGowan while perhaps a step past the line of scrimmage for another seven yards.

Then a quick hitter to receiver Malachi Carter, who got out of bounds for a 13-yard gain and a first down with only 21 seconds elapsed.

“That whole drive, in my head, I was just saying, ‘Move the ball down the field, complete the passes, get out of bounds and don’t turn the ball over,’” Sims said. “So basically, just staying calm back there and just trusting my O-line and trusting that my wide receivers were going to get open on their routes.”

On first-and-10, Sims dropped back again. Running back Jamious Griffin picked up a blitz by walk-on linebacker Taylor McCawley and the offensive line seamlessly adjusted its protection to account for a blitz by safety Kaleb Edwards. Sims zipped an on-target pass down the middle to McGowan, who brought in the spiral in stride and outraced defensive back Jalen Huff to the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown. After the defense held on the next series, Sims’ touchdown drive proved the scrimmage winner in a 31-25 decision for the Gold team over the White team.

“On the play to Kyric, I was reading the safety,” Sims said. “As soon as the safety dropped, I knew I had Kyric. So I just waited on him to clear and I hit him in stride, and he did what he does.”

When Sims and his cohorts open the season Sept. 4 against Northern Illinois at Grant Field, the deck won’t be stacked in his favor as it was Friday night. The Huskies defense won’t be limited to four calls, as defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker’s unit was Friday. Further, should the game be on the line, Northern Illinois likely won’t send out a mix of starters and backups, as was the case in Sims’ successful two-minute drill and throughout the scrimmage. Sims won’t have the comfort of knowing that the defense won’t lay a finger on him, as he could Friday.

Regardless, as the Jackets wrapped up spring practice with the annual spring game, the offense did its part. The offensive line, playing against a mix of starting and backup defensive linemen, kept Sims protected and didn’t commit any false starts, a problem last season. The receivers came open for Sims, as was not always the case last season. That included the dynamic McGowan, the grad transfer from Northwestern. And Sims did as he intended – move the ball, make the throws, get out of bounds and don’t turn it over.

His play “shows the mark of a truly aware and composed quarterback, and I’m really proud of him,” right guard Ryan Johnson said.

It completed a spring in which coaches have attested that Sims has made steps forward from his freshman season, when he completed 54.9% of his passes (of the 39 quarterbacks at power-conference schools who threw at least 200 passes last season, only one had a lower rate) and had a touchdown/interception ratio of 13/13. He certainly can still run, as evidenced by a 48-yard touchdown run down the west sideline on the opening drive.

“You saw that on display on that last drive with Jeff,” coach Geoff Collins said, “making quick decisions, delivering the football, trusting his protection in front of him.”

Georgia Tech quarterback Jordan Yates (13) prepares to get off a pass. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
Georgia Tech quarterback Jordan Yates (13) prepares to get off a pass. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

There were other highlights. Backup quarterback Jordan Yates was accurate and decisive, hitting pass plays of 44, 30 and 21 yards and leading a touchdown drive in which the offense converted a third-and-7, fourth-and-1 and a third-and-5, the last with a 23-yard touchdown pass to running back Bruce Jordan-Swilling. Quarterback Demetrius Knight, converted from linebacker, showed off his speed and playmaking ability. Quarterback Chayden Peery, an early enrollee playing in a game-like situation for the first time since his high school junior season in 2019, showed poise and made a number of accurate downfield throws.

Safety Tariq Carpenter came down with an interception of a gadget-play pass by wide receiver Pejé Harris, part of a solid game of coverage and tackling. The kicking game – kickoff specialist Austin Kent and placekicker Jude Kelley – handled its business. Linebackers Ayinde Eley, Quez Jackson and early enrollee Trenilyas Tatum all made plays. Tatum was in position for a pick-six interception of Sims – probably his poorest throw of the night – but couldn’t secure it.

The estimated crowd of 5,000, which included a number of Tech prospects, enjoyed a pleasant spring night in Midtown. The band entertained with its standards. Collins invited basketball coaches Nell Fortner and Josh Pastner to call plays for two series, Fortner (complete with headset) on offense and Pastner on defense. Carpenter, whose interception was off a call by Fortner, returned the ball to Pastner, who was holding a laminated play sheet entitled “Tecmo Bowl,” the 1990′s football video game. Practically unrecognizable without his ubiquitous face shield, Pastner spiked the ball to the delight of the Tech defenders.

Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner celebrates with the defense. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner celebrates with the defense. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

“All (Pastner) said was, ‘Get the ball, get the ball,’” safety Juanyeh Thomas said, “and it’s crazy because the play after that, Tariq picked the ball and brought it to him.”

Perhaps most important, the Jackets appeared to get through the night without injury. Before long, the night won’t be much more than a distant memory. Once the semester ends, the Jackets will dive into summer workouts, then engage in the preseason grind and count down to the season opener against Northern Illinois, the first step in a march that includes matchups with powerhouses Clemson, Notre Dame and Georgia. But, for a night, with those showdowns still months away, a taste of what could be was savored at the corner of Techwood Drive and North Avenue.

“We just wanted to play some really clean, fundamentally sound football,” Collins said. “Let some young guys make plays, show their abilities, without all the complex schemes, just play some really good football. And I thought they did that (Friday) and competed at a high level.”