Georgia Tech wrapped up its fifth practice of the spring session on Thursday morning, matching the number completed last year before the COVID shutdown. Our Midtown correspondent Akshay Easwaran provided a rundown of Saturday’s open to the public practice, and we look forward to getting a few more in person glimpses of the team before the spring game arrives on April 23rd.
It’s not wise or easy to draw big conclusions about a team from spring practice, as our access is limited, and the number of reps at game-like conditions is quite few. We do get to hear from a number of different coaches and players throughout the spring, and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to hear more about areas of focus and needed improvement from their perspective. (Make sure you’re checking out the full library of coach and player availability here.)
With the caveats that talk is cheap, that spring is a long time from fall, that everyone talks themself into believing their team is going to hugely improve next year…I’m getting excited. We’ve been harping this offseason on how vital it is for the passing game to take a huge leap forward in 2021. More than any other specific area on the team, passing offense has the potential to propel this team the furthest forward. From what Akshay observed on Saturday and from what we’ve been hearing from coaches and players, I believe that they are putting the appropriate focus on this area, and I believe that we will see meaningful steps forward come September 4.
Listening to Jeff Sims talk after practice last Thursday, I was encouraged to hear him talk about the particular areas of focus he has for himself in the offseason and during spring practice. He mentioned the decision making that led to some of his more inexplicable interceptions, the understanding of protections that led to him getting unnecessarily pressured, the ability to slow down or speed up the offense when necessary, and the ability to check plays at the line based on what he’s seeing. He knows the importance of improving his completion percentage, which will translate to more efficient offense and more sustained drives. He noted an increased willingness to check the ball down instead of forcing a covered throw down the field.
To expound on this, Coach Patenaude said that Sims “really didn’t know a lot of football when he arrived, but where he is now is tremendous.” He observed that Sims has gone from instinct to understanding as he leads the offense. He has seen last year’s freshman starter take the next step in understanding how to use cadence and tempo to his advantage, and he raved about Sims’s increased understanding of what he is seeing in the opposing defense before the snap. In answer to a question, Patenaude was clear that “Jeff Sims is the starting quarterback,” which was welcome to these ears.
This will be the first time since 2018 that the whole Georgia Tech staff and team knows who the quarterback will be going through spring, summer, and fall prep. That impact should not be understated. Sims noted his comfort level with returning receivers Adonicas Sanders, Malachi Carter, and Peje Harris. He raved about the ability of Kyric McGowan, calling him “a beast.” He is excited for the development of Avery Boyd and Ryan King, two freshman who had their promising seasons cut short by injury last year.
In line with what we noted about Jahmyr Gibbs’s impact last fall, Coach Patenuade made it a point to emphasize that GT will get him the ball in every way possible and put a large emphasis on including him in the passing game. These were some of GT’s most effective plays last year, and I’m excited to hear the OC so openly talk about his commitment to growing that part of the offense. Sims is getting to know his weapons, and he’s developing chemistry that will pay off this fall.
Georgia Tech finished 2020 ranking 113th out of 127 teams in Passing EPA/play. Spring is a time for optimism. If what we’re hearing is true, this has the makings of an offense that could skyrocket to the top 60 or top 50 of that ranking. That’s far from elite, but it would make a world of difference.
Notes on the recruiting front:
- Georgia Tech continues to invest hugely in the June 11th-13th Official Visit Weekend. 247 Sports lists 11 targets who are expected to visit that weekend. The most exciting addition to that list since our last check-in is Azareyeh Thomas, Juanyeh’s brother and one of GT’s absolute top targets for 2022. The group includes 5 4 star players; only one of the 5 seems like a huge long shot, and this group could play a massive role in setting up an excellent class in 2022.
- The staff is starting to put together a second significant OV weekend from June 18th-20th. It currently includes two four star prospects, as well as a teammate of Braden Davis, who the GT coaches are hoping to get to Atlanta that weekend also, as he is likely the top QB on the board for GT right now.
- Back in February, we noted the first 2023 commit for Georgia Tech, RB Javian Simpkins, as a player with a lot of potential. He’s now been rated by 247 Sports, checking in as a 4 star with a 90 rating and currently the 191st player in the country for the 2023 cycle. The GT coaches may have been out in front on a great prospect with this one.
Spring is in the air, and I’m riding a wave of GT Football optimism!