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Georgia hired Matt Luke to replace Sam Pittman.

What Georgia is getting in new offensive line coach Matt Luke

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What Georgia football is getting new offensive line coach Matt Luke

There was a case to be made that no position coach was more valuable to Kirby Smart than Sam Pittman. Not only was he universally beloved but he was perhaps the best recruiter on Georgia’s staff. He was just about everything Smart — or any coach would — want in a position coach.

That’s what made replacing him such an unenviable task. And given Georgia had five offensive line commitments, Smart was going to have to act fast in finding a replacement. Smart took his time with promoting Dan Lanning to replace Mel Tucker and hiring Charlton Warren last offseason, but the early signing period meant Smart was going to have to act fast.

And within 48 hours, Smart had his guy in Matt Luke. Georgia announced the hire on Tuesday morning.

“We are extremely excited and fortunate to have Matt join our staff,” Smart said.  “He’s a proven football coach who has a wealth of experience on the offensive side of the ball, especially in the offensive line. He has a great reputation among those who have played for him and it’s obvious watching his teams over many years that players love him and play hard for him.”

Luke is a tad overqualified to be the offensive line coach, given he spent the past three seasons serving as the interim and then head coach at his alma mater Ole Miss. He was fired after a 4-8 record this past season, but there’s an alternate universe where the Rebels don’t lose to Mississippi State on a missed extra point, and Luke is still employed with the Rebels.

Smart has seen first hand the value of having an overqualified offensive line coach dating back to his days at Alabama. Mario Cristobal was fired as Florida International’s coach after the 2012 season. He then became Alabama’s offensive line coach from 2013-16, when he recruited and developed the likes of Ryan Kelly, Jonah Williams and Cam Robinson. Cristobal’s stint in Tuscaloosa, Ala., is a big reason why he’s now the head coach of the Oregon Ducks, who just won the Pac-12.

Luke is well-versed in the SEC, as he’s been an offensive line coach at Ole Miss and Tennessee as well as Duke. He’s coached with the likes of Hugh Freeze, Phillip Fulmer and David Cutcliffe. He also played at an SEC level, as he was a center at Ole Miss from 1995-98.

Even before Luke’s hire was announced, there were prominent people with Georgia ties campaigning for him. David Andrews and Brandon Kublanow — both of whom where multi-year starters at Georgia and were recruited by Luke — gave strong endorsements for Luke on Tuesday morning. 

After the hire was made, the likes of Cole Cubelic and David Pollack both praised the move. Any time you can hire a former SEC head coach to your staff, you have to do it.

As for those recruits Georgia hopes to keep, they seem pretty excited about the hire. You can read more from DawgNation’s Jeff Sentell on what the recruits had to say, but the quote from Joshua Braun’s father — who is also an offensive line coach — really stands out.

“This is a slam dunk hire,” Mike Braun said. “Matt Luke is a great hire for the University of Georgia and a great offensive line coach. Hated everything happened to him at Ole Miss. He’s a great football coach.”

Related: Matt Luke: How do Georgia’s current O-line commits feel about the hire?

As a head coach, Luke was hamstrung by the sanctions passed down by the NCAA dating back to Freeze’s time as a head coach. But as a position coach, he’s shown he’s capable of winning big-time recruiting battles. He landed Lamrey Tunsil and Greg Little, who were both 5-star prospects as recruits when he was last an offensive line coach.

This is where we also should mention that there’s a reason he’s no longer the head coach at Ole Miss. During his three years there, the Rebels went just 15-21. And his final game as a head coach did end with a missed extra point that had been pushed back due to the fact that one of his players mimicked peeing like a dog after scoring a last-second touchdown.

But Georgia isn’t bringing him to run the program. Just the offensive line.

Luke is going to have big shoes to fill in replacing Pittman. But as the Jackson-Clarion Ledger’s Nick Suss, who covered Luke during the 2018 and ’19 seasons, tells it Luke does have some qualities that are at similar to that of Pittman.

“He’s well regarded as a recruiter and extremely well-liked by his players,” Suss said. “His experience as a head coach wasn’t great, but it does give him the leadership skills to command respect. And he tends to be very loyal.”

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