Georgia set a 6:30 a.m. wake up time for its players last Saturday morning.
The Bulldogs were scheduled for an 11 a.m. central kickoff time against Vanderbilt. The game would be the earliest Georgia played this season by three-and-a-half hours. Of Georgia’s six games this season, four have been night games.
A creature of habit and routine, the early kickoff scared head coach Kirby Smart. Georgia made its players wake up early on Thursday and Friday to adjust to the time change. Still, Smart worried if his team would be awake and alert for kickoff.
Before the sun rose on Saturday, sophomore defensive lineman Julian Rochester walked off a hotel elevator, around a corner and into the arms of head strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair.
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“(The strength staff was) down there bear-hugging every player this morning whether they wanted it or not,” Smart said after the game. “I certainly didn't want a hug from them but they gave me one too.”
The hugs helped wake the Bulldogs up. A few hours later, they walked out of Vanderbilt Stadium with a 45-14 win.
Georgia’s strength and conditioning staff consists of five men: Sinclair, Ed Ellis, Aaron Feld, Rodney Prince and Jamil Walker.
Every Thursday, the five strength coaches release a video titled “Throwdown Thursday.” This week’s edition will be episode 11. In the video, the coaches are filmed doing workouts that border on the extreme. Once, they ran a 4x400 relay in less than four minutes and 30 seconds.
“We were surprised they made it around,” Rochester said.
Last week, the staff combined to squat 77,625 pounds. On Aug. 24, in the middle of 90 degree heat, they drug and pushed a 5,500-pound Chevy pickup truck up a slight hill that leads onto Georgia’s practice fields.
“What is wrong with us?” Feld said after the truck was parked.
Added defensive lineman John Atkins: “We got one of the craziest strength staffs in the country.”
Smart said that during the offseason, when he is not allowed to coach the players due to NCAA rules, the strength staff is still with the team. This constant interaction builds trust.
Every time the Bulldogs work out, the strength staff has already done the exercises. If players begin to doubt themselves, Atkins said, the strength staff tells the players they have already done the workout, so the players can, too.
“They love us and want the best for us,” Rochester said. “We get consistency from them every single day. I don't know about everybody else in the country, but I know my strength staff is going to bring it every single day.”