The Sam Pittman Effect; the O-line revolution
When Kirby Smart took over as the head coach at Georgia back in December, he acknowledged that the SEC is a line of scrimmage league and that the Bulldogs needed to improve quickly in the trenches. One of his first moves as head coach was to bring in Jim Chaney as offensive coordinator and Sam Pittman as the offensive line coach.
Pittman, going back to his last few spots, has been known as one of the nation's best offensive line coaches and somebody who excels in recruiting the big uglies. It hasn’t taken long for the Bulldogs to reap the benefits of his work in that area.
When he arrived in Athens with just about two months until National Signing Day, Pittman worked to keep Ben Cleveland in the fold, which was never really a worry, but he also kept Chris Barnes from bolting, which was a concern.
On top of keeping those two in the fold, Pittman identified Solomon Kindley, a 6-foot-5, 345-pound offensive guard out of Jacksonville, Florida, as somebody he wanted and Pittman secured Kindley's commitment quickly.
After National Signing Day passed, the Bulldogs made another addition to their offensive line when Rhode Island graduate transfer tackle Tyler Catalina decided to take his talents to Athens for his final season of college football. Catalina was scheduled to take more visits, but after his trip to Athens, he cancelled his other plans and becmae a Bulldog. Georgia really needed a left tackle Catalina looks to fill that role.
Not only did the Bulldogs add four scholarship offensive lineman in the 2016 class, Pittman and the offensive staff left no stone unturned as they worked to find some preferred walk-ons to bring into the program for depth. Daniel Gothard, Allen Williams and Sean Fogarty will all be joining the Bulldogs and paying their own way to do so.
So far in the 2017 class, the Bulldogs have three offensive lineman committed. Most recently, four-star offensive tackle D’Antne Demery announced his intentions to play for Georgia as expected. Demery’s decision came down to Alabama and Georgia, but the Bulldogs were able to keep the Georgia native home instead of leaving the state to play for the National Champions.
The most highly rated offensive line commitment for the Bulldogs in the 2017 class is Netori Johnson, a four-star offensive tackle from Cedar Grove High School just outside of Atlanta. Johnson, the No. 2 ranked offensive guard and No. 35 ranked prospect in the nation, was previously committed to Alabama, but re-opened up his recruitment earlier this year. He didn’t wait long to let everybody know he wanted to play for Georgia under offensive line coach Sam Pittman.
Johnson’s teammate, Justin Shaffer, was also committed to another program, Louisville, when Smart and his staff arrived in Athens. After a couple trips to Athens, the three-star offensive guard decided to back out on his commitment to the Cardinals and switch over to his home-state school.
Georgia still has a number offensive line targets on the board in the 2017 class, including the No. offensive tackle in the nation who just visited Georgia. Five-star standout Isaiah Wilson apparently loved his time in the Classic City. Another five-star tackle, Calvin Ashley, visited Georgia last week, despite being committed to Auburn.
Along with the success Pittman has had in 2016 and 2017, he has manged to pick up commitments in both the 2018 and 2019 classes. In fact, the only commitments Georgia has in those classes are both offensive linemen.
This from a program which has struggled to land top linemen.
Offensive tackle Max Wray joined the Bulldogs on April 1 after making a couple visits to Georgia. The Tennessee native narrowed his list of schools down to Georgia and Tennessee pretty quickly, and ultimately decided to pick the Bulldogs. The 2018 four-star prospect will be a quarterback’s best friend, and it just so happens Wray’s relationship with Georgia’s top target at quarterback in the 2018 class, Trevor Lawrence, could end up paying off in a big way for Georgia.
Luke Griffin, an offensive tackle out of North Murray High School in the 2019 class, surprised a lot of people when he committed to Georgia so early. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound lineman worked out for Sam Pittman and the Georgia staff at a camp on June 11, received an offer, and committed to the Bulldogs on the spot.
So in just over six months on the job, Pittman has reeled in seven commitments to play on the offensive line for him in the upcoming years, nine if you count holding on to Cleveland and Barnes
Four of the seven prospects who have rankings on Rivals.com are considered four-star prospects and the other three are three-star prospects. Griffin doesn’t have a ranking yet, but it’s safe to assume that he’s a very talented prospect if the Pittman and the rest of the staff saw enough to take his commitment with three years left of high school. And Catalina could take over on Day 1 so his ranking should be "starter."
Now you can see why the Arkansas linemen didn't want Pittman to leave for Georgia and why he was one of Smart's first phone calls.