As Georgia coach Kirby Smart was finishing up another round of interviews, he flashed a huge smile. Not because he had just finished his obligation of speaking to the media, but because his old friend Sam Pittman walked into the room.
The two hugged and began cracking jokes, busting each other’s chops as all old friends do.
Pittman was Smart’s first offensive line coach from 2016 to 2019, helping build elite offensive lines throughout his time in Athens. He recruited all five starters on Georgia’s championship-winning offensive line to play for the Bulldogs.
The only reason Pittman ended up leaving Athens was that his dream job was offered to him as the head coach at Arkansas. That move worked out for both parties, with the Razorbacks going 9-4 last season and Pittman earning a well-deserved contract extension this offseason.
“There was myself and Coach Tucker, Dan Lanning and Coach Beamer all came from the Kirby Smart tree at some point,” Pittman said at SEC media days. “I’m certainly indebted to him.”
Pittman still carries some importance in the Georgia program, as many of the veterans are still familiar with the former coach. When Pittman ran into outside linebacker Nolan Smith, the two hugged and shared some words, just as Pittman had done with Smart.
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Pittman wasn’t sulking or upset after the result, however. He still found time to spread some positivity to some of the players he helped recruit to Athens.
“After the Arkansas game, he told me he was proud of me,” Van Pran said. “Especially at the time but if I’m being honest. I believed in coach Smart and coach Luke. Even though coach Pittman was a loss, you have to give credit to coach Smart and coach Luke.”
Georgia’s offensive line will be under new management this year, as Stacy Searels is replacing Matt Luke. The former Ole Miss head coach stepped away in February to spend more time with his family.
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Van Pran enters his second season as the team’s starting center. He’s been complimentary so far of Searels and the job he has done in terms of connecting with the offensive line room. Georgia will have to replace Justin Shaffer and Jamaree Salyer, who left big shoes to fill at the guard spots.
The Bulldogs expect Van Pran to help also supplement some of the leadership roles those two standouts left behind.
“I feel really comfortable. My biggest thing is making sure I can lead my guys,” Van Pran said. “Just making sure I put everyone in a good position around me to win, to excel at their position is my biggest thing.”
Van Pran noted that leadership is something that has always come naturally to him. Pittman, who recruited Van Pran to Georgia out of New Orleans, and Smart both agree with that sentiment. The beloved former Georgia offensive line coach has long been seen as one of the best offensive line coaches in the country, while Smart has always placed a premium on the position in terms of recruiting.
And the interactions that Van Pran, Smith and Smart have had with Pittman help demonstrate why he’s such a beloved figure at Arkansas.
Sedrick Van Pran shares what makes former UGA OL coach Sam Pittman so beloved
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