JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – This has already been a surreal month for Georgia coaches and staffers, and this game has to be especially surreal for John Thomas and Gus Felder.
Thomas is Georgia’s associate strength and conditioning coach. But from 1993-2012 he was the strength coach at Penn State. Essentially, he was Joe Paterno’s right-hand man in the weight room. Thomas was named the national strength coach of the year in 1997.
Felder, who is also on Georgia’s strength staff, is a former Penn State player. He was an offensive lineman for the Nittany Lions from 1998-2002, making All Big Ten his final two years. Felder is a native of North Philadelphia, Penn.
So it’s no surprise that Thomas and Felder, before Saturday’s game, were hugging old friends and renewing acquaintances.
It’s unknown what’s going to happen to the members of the Georgia strength staff after this game. New head coach Kirby Smart was interested in bringing Alabama’s longtime strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Cochran, but Alabama gave Cochran a big salary increase to keep him.
Smart and Georgia’s strength and conditioning coordinator Mark Hocke should know each other well, as Hocke worked at Alabama for six years before coming to Georgia last year. But so far Smart hasn’t said anything about Hocke’s status.