Observations from Georgia Tech’s fifth preseason practice

With temperatures in the 70s and overcast skies, Georgia Tech players had temperate conditions for their first full-pads practice of the preseason Thursday morning.

With several NFL scouts and athletic director Todd Stansbury among the visitors to the Yellow Jackets’ fifth practice of the preseason, Tech continued preparations for the season, beginning with the opener against Clemson at 8 p.m. Sept. 5 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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Observations from the portion of the practice open to media:

1. One of the early periods of the morning was dedicated to the punt team. In several attempts, punter David Shanahan was consistent with his hang time. Against a rush, Shanahan repeatedly was able to make clean connections for high-hanging kicks.

Last season, which was Shanahan’s first time playing football at any level, he averaged 42.1 yards per punt, seventh in the ACC. As a team, Tech’s net punting average of 35.7 yards per punt ranked 122nd in FBS.

2. For the first practice in full pads, coaches did not tarry in bringing on contact drills. The team went 11-on-11 inside the 5-yard line in one of the first periods of the practice, though there was a similar drill Wednesday when players were in shoulder pads and shorts. On one of the successful plays for the offense, quarterback Zach Gibson found tight end PeJe Harris shooting out to the front pylon for a touchdown just across the goal line.

In a drill run by secondary coach Travares Tillman, defensive backs lined up across from one another, were pushed back by Tillman and then one wrapped up the other and drove him backward. Kenny Bennett, a transfer from Maryland, made perhaps the most jarring collision in the drill, earning the approval of Tillman.

Bennett has been training at nickel back and cornerback, defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker said Wednesday. Bennett is competing with Kaleb Edwards and K.J. Wallace for the nickel spot.

3. Quarterback Jeff Sims was particularly effective in a two-on-two passing drill, finding open targets and hitting them in stride. Offensive coordinator Chip Long was asked after practice if receivers have an advantage in that drill, in part because the defensive backs don’t have help from safeties that they might in a game or 7-on-7 drill.

Said Long, “With the way Jeff’s throwing, I think we do.”