Jordan Yates’ preparation and patience paying off for Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech quarterback Jordan Yates (13) runs with the ball during the first half against Kennesaw State on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin /



Georgia Tech quarterback Jordan Yates (13) runs with the ball during the first half against Kennesaw State on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin /

As using the transfer portal has become more common, it is easy for a college athlete to weigh options and leave a program to search for what’s deemed a better place. No more do players have to “grind it out” or wait for their turn.

For sophomore quarterback Jordan Yates, he stayed at Georgia Tech even when things were not the best. For a program that has a combined 7-17 record over the past three seasons, there weren’t many bright days at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

In Yates’ freshman season of 2019, the Yellow Jackets went 3-9 while playing in only three games. His stats that season consisted of 4-for-12 passing for 38 yards with zero touchdowns and interceptions.

The next season, he redshirted after three games as backup signal-caller. His final stats were 4-for-9 passing for 16 yards with no touchdowns and interceptions.

This usually is the time when most athletes would look at other options and more than likely transfer to a school where they can get the opportunity to play. Instead, Yates continued working on his craft and skills in the offseason.

Yates’ work has put him in the position to be the leader of the Jackets offense after an injury to starting quarterback Jeff Sims. From being the star quarterback at Milton High School and one of the top quarterbacks in Class 7A in Georgia, he has progressed a lot since then.

“It’s night and day,” Yates said on his progression from high school to college. “You learn so much from being in the film room all day, meeting, stuff like that. Physically getting bigger stronger, arm strength.”

Entering this season, Sims returned as Tech’s starting quarterback, but he was injured in the season opener against Northern Illinois, which meant Yates was the next man up. Yates finished the game 12-for-18 passing for 135 yards and one touchdown, but the Jackets came up short, losing 22-21.

The next game for Yates became a coming-out party that many were not expecting. He threw for 254 yards and four touchdowns on 17-for-23 passing Saturday. That was his best game of his college career.

“He’s a competitor, I was really proud of him on Saturday,” Collins said Tuesday. “In this program, we don’t worry about starters, we want everybody to prepare like it’s going to be their show on Saturday. I think Jordan has done that for the last two years. I think that’s the philosophy of the program that helps guys when they get their opportunity at the next level.”

There is no doubt that Georgia Tech faces a tough task on the road Saturday against the sixth-ranked Clemson Tigers.

It is an early test for the Yellow Jackets and their offense, which has many questions to answer in this game. The starting quarterback, production on offense and the defense’s ability to contain the Tigers running and passing game are some of the few things needed to be done by the Jackets to score the upset against the Tigers.

Tech defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker is embracing the challenge while understand the circumstance ahead of Saturday’s matchup.

“They’re big at receiver,” Thacker said of Clemson’s receivers, including Justyn Ross and Joseph Ngata. “They got size and length. Just as far as catch radius, they’re excellent route runners. Justyn Ross is their best route runner and is elusive in space.

Ross is the Tigers’ second leading receiver, with seven coaches for 77 yards and one touchdown. Ngata currently leads the Tigers’ receiver corps, with nine catches for 161 yards.

With great receivers, it is important to win the one-on-one battles, and Thacker knows this will be one of the major deciding factors in the outcome of Saturday’s game.

“What that requires is being in phase,” Thacker said. “Being close to someone in coverage. The competitive-catch piece of it (and) finishing while the ball is in the air, we call that 50-50 balls. Those competitive situations where we got to win. It’s football disruption, attacking through the arms, attacking through the hands, going up and being the first one up in those situations.”

The Jackets secondary will have a strong test Saturday. The defensive plan is simple, guys such as safety Juanyeh Thomas and cornerbacks Tre Swilling and Zamari Walton will have to battle and win the 50-50 balls.

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