The benefit and impact of having Matt Luke at Georgia extends beyond the offensive line
Just about everyone was excited about the addition of offensive line coach Matt Luke when he took over for Sam Pittman back in December. Recruits loved the hire, and it showed as the Bulldogs retained all but one of the commitments from Pittman while adding three more.
And Kirby Smart knew right away that Luke would bring a different vibe to the Georgia group.
“The minute we found out about Sam, he was the first guy who came to my mind and wanted to visit with,” Smart said. “(Luke) has been a good friend of mine for a long time. I’ve got a lot of respect for what he does and how he does it.”
Luke is also a first of sorts to the Georgia staff. He’s the first assistant that Smart has hired in his time at Georgia that his prior head coaching experience. Luke knows what Smart has to deal with on some level and can serve as a sounding board on major issues.
And Luke showed some of that coaching experience — of being the lead guy in the chair — when he and his family addressed Georgia fans this weekend. He and his family now how tough the recent weeks have been and the Luke family addressed those concerns in the best way they could.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time together, watching and taking advantage of this time,” Luke said. “It’s been tough and unprecedented for everybody but we’ve really spent a lot of time together as a family.”
Dawg Nation just wanted to update y’all on what’s happening in the Luke Household! Make sure you do your part! Wash your hands, practice social distancing and Hunker Down! #GoDawgs pic.twitter.com/woYARw8yY2
— Matt Luke (@CoachMattLuke) March 23, 2020
That moment of assistant coaches publicly speaking is a rarity under Smart. It’s all a part of his one voice philosophy, which is common from his time at Alabama. Pittman only ever took to Twitter to celebrate a commitment. What Luke did, is something of a different tone to that.
With this video, it’s easy to see why he was beloved by former Ole Miss players. He comes off as personable and a calming influence. Match that with the energy he brought during the Sugar Bowl and it’s easy to see why he had so much success on the recruiting trail in such a short period of time.
“He’s got a lot of energy. He’s been a blessing for us,” Smart said on National Signing Day. “In addition, it helps me from a head coach standpoint.”
At some point, life will return to normal and we can further focus on how Luke will go about molding the future of the Georgia offensive line. How he’ll use Jamaree Salyer or develop Broderick Jones and Tate Ratledge.
And then we’ll get a better idea of how Luke’s prior head coaching experience is going to help Smart. For all that Smart has done in his time at Georgia, he’s still only entering his fifth year as the head coach of a major college football program. Now Luke doesn’t have that same length of experience dating back to his time at Ole Miss, but given all he went through at the end of the Hugh Freeze era he’ll bring a different set of knowledge to the table.
Luke also isn’t the only assistant with prior head coaching experience that joined the staff this offseason. Todd Monken, Georgia’s new offensive play-caller, was the head coach at Southern Miss for three seasons before taking the offensive coordinator job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Monken and Luke were tasked with doing less with more as head coaches. Georgia is a program where you are accustomed to getting more out of the most. Monken and Luke, especially on the offensive side of the ball, will bring a new mindset and energy that the Bulldogs — for better or worse — haven’t had under Smart up to this point.
It’s probably not a coincidence that both these guys will work on the offensive side of the ball, given Smart’s extensive knowledge of defensive football. Georgia has had no issue building out elite defenses at Georgia, and the Bulldogs figure to do that once again in 2020. The same can’t be said for the offensive side of the ball.
And this is something Nick Saban has done at Alabama as well, essentially creating overqualified position coaches with guys who have former head coaching experience. On Saban’s 2015 Alabama staff, he had Lane Kiffin as the offensive coordinator and Mario Cristobal as the offensive line coach. Both Kiffin and Cristobal had prior head coaching experience and both played key roles in leading Alabama to a national title.
Cristobal is coming off a season where he led Oregon to a PAC 12 title and a Rose Bowl victory, while Kiffin is set to be the head coach at Ole Miss this fall, replacing Luke.
Luke probably won’t be at Georgia for long. If things go as planned, someone is going to scoop him up and make him a head coach once again. That’s the way of life at a program that competes for and wins titles. But we’ve already seen that Luke has no issue making a rather profound impact in such a limited amount of time.
“Two days, three days after Coach Pittman left these kids had somebody new to meet and began to meet them before the middle dead period, the Christmas dead period,” Smart said of Luke as a recruiter.
“It was critical so that he could communicate with them throughout that period and keep a relationship. It did help a lot on the offensive line.”
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