Hello, spring practice: UGA head coach Kirby Smart speaks to media on first day of training
Kirby Smart will walk onto the practice field Tuesday with a bit more concern than any other day of spring practice. Understandably, Georgia players might be a bit lethargic and that’s a mood echoed across the university’s campus.
After Georgia’s season ended on Jan. 1, a new one started. There were plenty of days in the weight room and some of the toughest days of a new campaign have already passed. An opportunity for a one-week escape came which likely meant beach trips, plenty of tasty food and a few hours of lounging for many.
“You do all of that build-up to get ready, then you have a week off and have to get back to practice,” said Smart, who is entering his fourth spring practice as the Bulldogs’ head coach. “We’ll have to push these guys to get back into playing shape.”
Jake Fromm took care of that at a lake down near his hometown of Warner Robins. He was catching fish, or “big ones” as he called them, and let the world know he was doing bicep curls and shoulder workouts in the process.
Not quite the workout plan designed by the Bulldogs, one could assume.
“That was probably built by granddad and dad,” Fromm said. “That was something up their sleeve.”
Those exercises probably didn’t do much for Fromm entering spring practice, but the work of strength-and-conditioning coach Scott Sinclair (who does more than pull Smart back to the sideline during games) has been instrumental in that preparation. Sinclair, along with his assistants Ed Ellis and Ben Sowders, spend the most individual time with the players than anyone else on the staff. It’s this trio that builds the Bulldogs into the daunting SEC-caliber presence that America sees on Saturdays.
As Georgia begins its spring practice Tuesday, there is a smoother transition to on-field drills after the grueling conditioning tasks are done. Sinclair enters his fourth season of being hunched over weight apparatuses and yelling at players with a variety of heavy demands and encouragement to become bigger, faster and stronger (quite the cliche there, but it fits).
Smart hired Sinclair with a $450,000 salary (a figure obtained by The Telegraph via an open records request in 2018) and a sense of trust to design their own workout plans. After all, they spend time with players in the offseason without other coaches being present.
Smart might have daily meetings with the strength staff to determine what works best to maximize results, but most of the decision-making doesn’t come from the head coach’s side. As a result, Sinclair repetitively discusses his “gains,” as Smart put it, throughout the offseason. Georgia had 34 players bench press over 300 pounds this season as opposed to 32 from last, and the same occurred in power clean (an increase from 30 to 32).
“I’m taking that input from a master strength coach and there are only so many of those guys in the country,” Smart said. “We’re fortunate to have two of them here, and we rely on experience and value. He provides energy and discipline, and spends more 1-on-1 time with players than probably anybody else in our program.”
Georgia’s workout plans are strenuous, often seen in the program’s social media posts. While Sinclair isn’t permitted to speak to the media, he’s the face of the team’s Instagram page. There have been a number of drills documented while the team wears shirts that say “DO MORE.”
Offensive guard Ben Cleveland fits that label by using his Stephens County strength to power clean 405. Yes, 4-0-5 as Sinclair held those up in the video.
“I think he’s one of the most-respected guys in the building — from teammates to coaches,” Fromm said. “He’s an incredible guy. I’m really thankful he’s my strength coach and he’s doing an unbelievable job.”
Georgia truly reaps the reward of Sinclair’s work when it translates through the season. Time after time, Smart indicates Georgia had an advantage because the other team was “worn out,” especially on the line-of-scrimmage. The Bulldogs don’t allow that to happen with fourth quarter programs and a segment known as “Dawg Time.”
After the team activities are completed, they’re asked to do extra and escalate their workload.
“That correlates to a football game,” fifth-year defensive tackle Michael Barnett said. “Because you never know if a game will go into overtime or if you will face a crunch-time situation.”
Sinclair posts a chart in the weight room with a detailed description of how many training sessions an athlete may have over a four-year period — about 240. He ensures each of them are used with purpose, rather than being wasted.
As a new season begins and 14 early enrollees are participating, that becomes ever-important. For the newcomers that might’ve been doing workouts similar to Fromm’s fish curls — in comparison to intensity, at least, no offense to high-school programs — Sinclair is all about those Bulldogs reaching the next level.
“It’s really interesting to see how they change over a three-week period,” Sinclair said in a team-issued video. “We really see improvements in such a short time with our young guys. We have to push them, then all of the sudden a light comes on.”