With his first 15 spring practices behind him, Jeff Sims can now look forward to the 2021 season. Georgia Tech’s returning starting quarterback couldn’t practice with the team last spring as an early enrollee freshman because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He still won the starting quarterback job over James Graham — now at Georgia Southern — and had an up-and-down year in the Yellow Jackets’ 3-7 season.

On Friday, he barely won a different type of quarterback competition: Tech’s spring game. Points in the annual scrimmage were awarded based on which quarterback was on the field. Receivers and running backs accumulated stats for both teams. Bruce Jordan-Swilling, for example, had 39 rushing yards for the Gold team and another 18 yards for the White team.

Sims passed for 125 yards and two touchdowns in the Gold team’s 31-25 win. He also had a 48-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter after a fake handoff, fooling the defensive end. Backup quarterbacks Jordan Yates and Chayden Perry had 99 and 98 passing yards, respectively.

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There is, of course, a slight problem with judging anything based on a spring game: It’s a spring game. It carries zero implications in the standings or in the depth chart.

Regardless of performance, Sims is coach Geoff Collins’ guy. But on Friday, Collins chose to give Sims, Yates, Perry and Demetrius Knight about the same number of reps. They all had between eight and 10 passing attempts.

“We spent a lot of time making sure that the play distribution (was correct),” Collins said. “The things that we need to see in a live setting, those are scripted. We even have the plays that we want to get certain guys the ball and the manner in which we want to see certain guys get the ball as well. All of that is planned.”

Last season, Sims became the first freshman quarterback to start a season opener for Tech since Reggie Ball in 2003. He had 13 passing touchdowns, six rushing touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His completion percentage of 54.9% was the second lowest among Power 5 quarterbacks at least 200 attempts.

Four of his 13 interceptions came against Syracuse in the Jackets’ third game. But then he also had performances like the one against Duke. Sims led Tech to a victory in that November game with 146 passing yards and 108 rushing yards.

Since then, Sims has worked on completing short routes when longer ones aren’t open. His overall pocket presence has improved.

“(Last year), I could find myself a lot of times getting hectic in the pocket, ready to run or just throw the ball away,” Sims said. “So just staying calm and trusting my O-line and staying back there reading the defense and completing my passes, I feel like I’ve grown a lot in that area.”

Tight end Dylan Leonard scores a touchdown during the 2021 Spring Game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Friday, April 23, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Tight end Dylan Leonard scores a touchdown during the 2021 Spring Game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Friday, April 23, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Gold team’s final drive, capped by Sims’ 33-yard touchdown pass to Kyric McGowan, reflected the best of what Sims can do in coordinator Dave Patenaude’s offense. He danced around in the pocket, avoided pressure and led the offense down the field in a hurry.

The Gold team trailed 25-24 with two minutes left before that drive. Sims passed the two-minute drill test in April. He hopes to do even better against Northern Illinois in September.

“The game has slowed down tremendously for me,” Sims said, “by knowing where to go with the ball, knowing what the defense is doing and just having confidence in my line.”

One of those linemen — senior Ryan Johnson — has seen a lot of growth from Sims. Johnson’s dad always taught him to be calm in tough situations rather than do what he calls “the loser’s dance.” Sims didn’t do the loser’s dance Friday night.

“It shows the mark of a truly aware and composed quarterback,” Johnson said. “He’s a hell of an athlete, but he’s also incredibly smart. I think he has a long way that he’ll be able to progress in this game, and I’m truly looking forward to seeing what he does this season.”

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