It’s really hot outside.
Fortunately for the Georgia Southern Eagles, when fall camp began Thursday at Beautiful Eagle Creek, every conceivable precaution had already been taken to ensure the safety of the players.
Modern technology plays a huge role before, during and after practice.
Of course, there’s still room in the game to hydrate the old fashioned way.
“We always say you’ve got to drink before you’re thirsty,” said Robbie Jackson, director of football sports medicine at GSU. “If you’re drinking when you’re thirsty, it means you’re already dehydrated.”
The coaching staff makes sure the players get water every 15 minutes or so during practice.
For the hottest of practice days, each player has in-helmet technology called “Hothead.”
In the helmet of each player, a sensor in contact with the temple sends a signal to a digital monitor, letting the coaching staff know the body temperature of each player.
Assistant athletic trainer Justin Matlage keeps track of the jersey number and body temperatures of the entire team, and if somebody begins to overheat, Matlage knows immediately.
Only one player had such an issue Thursday. He was beginning to cramp, and his body heat alerted Matlage. After a water break, the player finished out practice.
Another player’s helmet sent out an alarm, but there’s room for error even in the most modern of technology — the player had removed his helmet.
The team also acclimates itself to the high temperatures throughout the summers, working out in the sun almost daily during voluntary workouts.
“NCAA football has become a year-round sport,” said Jackson. “They’re here voluntarily during the summer day-in and day-out. They’re running and conditioning in it. They’re accustomed to the heat now more-so than they ever were 10 years ago.”
“They’d lift at three then come out here running at four,” added second-year head coach Jeff Monken, “so we feel our guys are acclimated to it, and they know what the heat’s going to present to them.”
The coaching staff also uses a method it learned from the NFL to monitor a player’s health through weigh-ins.
At 1 p.m. Thursday, each player was weighed to determine their target weight That number is used to measure each player’s daily level of hydration after practice, when they’re weighed in again before they’re allowed to leave for the day.
“If they’ve lost five or six percent of their body weight, we hold on to them, we feed them until they’re back to four percent, and then they can leave our sights,” said Jackson. “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in practice in endurance, performance and a lack of kids that are falling out of practice.”
Anything more than a two-percent loss is addressed by the coaching staff, although it isn’t an exact science.
“There’s a few of them that could stand to lose a couple pounds,” Monken said.
In those cases, the weight comes off gradually – one or two pounds a week – until the target weight is reached.
For other players, a smaller loss of weight is a much more pressing concern.
“We’ve got some guys that are measuring in the fours and fives [percent] in body fat,” Monken said. “When those guys are losing a lot of weight, it’s a lot more serious. You want to bring those guys back to the target weight.”
Fall camp resumes today at 2:45 p.m. at Beautiful Eagle Creek.
GSU Practice Update
Quarterback Ezayi Youyoute has opted not to return to the team this fall, and signee Owen Williams has been released from his National Letter of Intent.
Senior offensive lineman Chris Gray (ankle), junior wide receiver Mitchell Williford (appendix surgery) and freshman defensive lineman Johnathan Battle (hernia surgery) are all on the injured list and will not participate in preseason practices.
Quotable: 'I daydream about [the upcoming season] every day. I’m pretty sure everybody out here daydreams about it every day. We’re all ready for the season. Something special happened last year, and we feel like we’ve got a better team this year.'
— Fullback Zeke Rozier, a fifth-year senior who missed 2010 due to injury
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.