Kirby Smart expanding Georgia football’s nutrition and strength operations

This aerial photo taken on June 11, 2021, by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows how the University of Georgia paired its Indoor Athletic Facility (left side) with its new $80 million football operations building (right). Football coach Kirby Smart is now directing donor funds toward increased support personnel, especially in the areas of nutrition, strength and conditioning and training. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Combined ShapeCaption
This aerial photo taken on June 11, 2021, by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows how the University of Georgia paired its Indoor Athletic Facility (left side) with its new $80 million football operations building (right). Football coach Kirby Smart is now directing donor funds toward increased support personnel, especially in the areas of nutrition, strength and conditioning and training. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

ATHENS – The transition from Matt Luke to Stacy Searels as offensive line coach actually went well for Georgia – financially speaking anyway.

The Bulldogs are going to pay Searels $650,000, or $250,000 less per year than they were paying Luke. UGA revealed Searels’ salary Tuesday in response to the AJC’s open-records request submitted shortly after Searels’ Feb. 28 hire.

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Luke, who also carried the title of associate head coach, resigned last month after only two years with the program. He had been head coach at Ole Miss for three years before that.

Kirby Smart brought in Searels just a week later. Searels came to UGA from North Carolina after short stints at Texas, Virginia Tech and Miami. He previously was at Georgia under Mark Richt before leaving in 2010.

Searels was the fourth coaching staff hire made by Smart since the Bulldogs clinched the national championship with a 33-18 win over Alabama on Jan. 10. He joins defensive backs coach Fran Brown (Feb. 18), outside linebackers coach Chidera Uzo-Diribe (Feb. 4) and wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon (Jan. 30) as new members of the 2022 coaching staff. Georgia opens spring practice Tuesday.

While assistant coach hires grab more headlines in college football, Smart has been doing some moving and shaking in other areas of Georgia’s football program as well. That has been particularly evident in the areas of strength and conditioning and nutrition.

Since the calendar flipped to 2022, Smart has hired Cate Hermans as assistant director of football nutrition, Arriel Lawlor as performance chef for football and Courtney Crawford as culinary service manager for football, according to records turned over by UGA Athletics earlier this week. Smart also sought and received raises for Collier Perno, director of football nutrition, and Brent Williams, head performance chef for football.

They are part of a growing staff of nutrition specialists headed up by Jana Heitmeyer. Heitmeyer also hired John “J.J.” Beasley as performance chef for UGA’s Olympic sports at the first of the year. The idea is to provide made-to-order, goal-specific meals on site for Georgia’s many and varied athletes.

Football strength and conditioning also is getting some added muscle. The Bulldogs added Lonnie Brown from Arizona, as assistant strength-and-conditioning coordinator. Brown was an assistant coordinator at Alabama shortly after graduating from there, and was director at Alabama State. Brown follows the appointment of Jordan Barber as an assistant strength coordinator. Barber came to Georgia from Miami.

Georgia also brought in Tyson Street from Purdue as assistant director of football operations and recruiting, Kirk Benedict from Duke as a special-teams analyst, Kadeem Wise from Chattanooga as assistant director of recruiting operations and Mitch Bernardo from Mississippi State as director of football creative services and promoted intern Anna Courson to football operations assistant and travel coordinator.

In a few cases, these individuals are replacing others who have left. But most of them are new additions, and all of them are commanding salaries of at least $50,000 a year and usually considerably more.

Clearly, Smart intends to keep the defending national champion Bulldogs on top. He’s going to do it in spending, if nothing else.

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