How Sam Pittman and Matt Luke Created an Offensive Line Foundation

Since arriving in Athens in 2016, Sam Pittman has continued his ascent and established himself as one of the best offensive line coaches in the country. He was on the staff of Kirby Smart as Georgia won three straight SEC East titles, behind a solid lineman game that helped Nick Chubb, Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift rush through the books. story.

In addition to training offensive linemen who made it to the NFL, Pittman was and is one of college football’s top scouts.

Following:‘He gets the best from his players’: Sam Pittman returns to Athens with Arkansas top 10 team

As Pittman’s Arkansas team heads to Athens on Saturday for the Razorbacks’ first game as a Top 10 team since 2012, it’s hard to ignore the impact their recruiting has had on the UGA’s success on the offensive line.

Pittman turned Solomon Kindley, Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson into NFL linemen, with Thomas and Wilson drafted in the first round.

Georgia started just six players on the offensive line in four games and Pittman was instrumental in recruiting all six.

“His personality,” said Warren McClendon, second-year redshirt right tackle, when asked what, about Pittman, helped him get involved with the Bulldogs. “He gives to his players and I wanted to be part of it. The things he was building here at UGA, I just wanted to be a part of it.

McClendon, who is 6 feet 4 inches and 300 pounds, was recruited from Brunswick. The four-star tackle signed against Pittman and UGA in July 2018 and signed up for Athens in January.

It wasn’t a hard sell for McClendon, who also visited rivals Florida and South Carolina.

Georgia running back Zamir White (3) and Georgia offensive lineman Warren McClendon (70) during the Bulldogs game with Florida in Jacksonville, Fla. On Saturday, November 7, 2020.

One of the biggest hits of the Smart Era came from Jamaree Salyer, who is now a senior and a likely first-round pick in the 2022 Draft. Salyer was a five-star goalie in the 2018 recruiting class and player. No. 10 nationally.

The 6-foot-4, 340-pound offensive guard at Pace Academy in Atlanta was heavily recruited by Typical Powers, but his last two were Clemson and Georgia.

It was a choice to protect either Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields, the top two prospects in the 2018 class.

“(Georgia is) the hot team right now,” Salyer said in October 2017, two months before choosing the Bulldogs. “They are doing really well and have some of my friends there. Coach Pittman is good at building relationships and obviously an amazing recruiter. They are all great guys too.”

Fast forward to this season, where McClendon, Salyer are joined by linemen like right guard Warren Ericson, left guard Justin Shaffer and center Sedrick Van Pran to form an imposing offensive line.

And that’s just the starting lineup, which even Smart admitted was on the smaller stature when it came to the offensive lines. 6-foot-6 guard Tate Ratledge was injured in the Clemson game and will be out for the season. Then you get the youngest backups: Austin Blaske (6 feet 7 inches, 315 pounds), Broderick Jones (6 feet 6 inches, 305), Amarius Mims (6 feet 7 inches, 315), Xavier Truss (6 feet 6 inches) ). foot-7, 315) and Devin Willock (6 foot-7, 340).

Pittman’s replacement Matt Luke did such a good job recruiting big prospects, both figuratively and literally.

“They’re everything you want in an assistant coach / offensive line coach because they care more about the team than themselves,” Smart said this week comparing Luke and Pittman. “They sell that to their players, and they’re both great scouts.”

It doesn’t look like the trend to recruit star linemen in Athens is going to slow down anytime soon. Last week, Bo Hughley, the No.6 offensive tackle in the 2023 recruiting class, made his pledge to UGA, making him the sixth four- or five-star offensive lineman since Luke was on the staff.

McClain Baxley is a recruiting reporter for the Athens Banner-Herald and the USA TODAY Network. Contact him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @mcclainbaxley.

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