ATHENS, Ga. — When Georgia hired Sam Pittman, it did so by giving him what’s believed to be unprecedented in college football: a three-year-deal for an offensive line coach, and also for what’s believed to be among the highest salaries for a position coach, $525,000 a year.
Pittman’s going to have to earn that money over the next few years.
Georgia’s offensive line has enough issues that it couldn’t get a push on Nicholls State, an FCS team. But it’s not a young unit: Three of the starters are seniors, who will be gone next year, so it’s not like the current starting five will grow and develop together.
So, yes, Pittman will earn his money.
“We’re not a big offensive line,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “We’re not an offensive line that’s a huge, overpowering offensive line. We don’t have massive guys. With that, you don’t get as much push.”
Smart came from Alabama, where last year’s national championship-winning offensive line averaged 311 pounds per man. The five men starting for Georgia this year average 302. That may be why Solomon Kindley, who’s around 340 pounds, was receiving some first-team snaps at right guard this week.
But the biggest statement about Georgia’s line may be that the starting left tackle, Tyler Catalina, was playing for FCS member Rhode Island last year — where he was second-team all-conference.
So, how did Georgia get to this place?
Start with recruits the Bulldogs have missed out on. Three in-state O-linemen are now starting and excelling at other major programs:
- Shamire Devine (6-7, 370) at Georgia Tech. He’s from Tri Cities High School in Atlanta.
- Orlando Brown Jr. (6-8, 340) at Oklahoma. He’s from Suwanee’s Peachtree Ridge.
- Mitch Hyatt (6-5, 295) at Clemson. Hyatt, from North Gwinnett High School, was pursued heavily by Georgia, but his uncle went to Clemson, and it was hard to pull him from there.
In the past two years, Southern California has grabbed two in-state targets out of Georgia: This year, it was E.J. Price, a top 100 recruit, and last year. it was Chma Edoga from Powder Springs, who was the nation’s No. 26 overall recruit.
The most infamous Georgia miss was Laremy Tunsil, one of the nation’s top offensive line recruits in 2013, and appeared headed to Georgia until he visited Ole Miss. (Now that’s the center of an NCAA investigation.) But Tunsil left for the NFL after last season, so he wouldn’t necessarily be part of Georgia’s line this year.
It didn’t help Georgia to have three different offensive line coaches in as many years. But Will Friend (who was on the job from 2011-14 before becoming Colorado State’s offensive coordinator) and Rob Sale (who had the job last year) did reel in some good recruits. They’re just working out to varying degrees:
- 2016: Kindley was only a 3-star player, but is closer to seeing the field than Ben Cleveland, who was the nation’s 92nd overall recruit, per 247Sports. Three-star recruit Chris Barnes was the only other offensive line signee.
- 2015: Pat Allen was the only four-star offensive line recruit. Sam Madden, Sage Hardin, Mirko Jurkovic were 3-star players. Jurkovic took a medical disqualification this year, and the other three have yet to play.
- 2014: Isaiah Wynn was a 4-star recruit and has been a starter the past two years. Lamont Gaillard, who’s been starting at right guard, was a 4-star talent, but as a defensive lineman. Dyshon Sims was a 4-star player and is the line’s sixth man. Kendall Baker was a 4-star recruit and is a second-team tackle. Jake Edwards was a 3-star player who transferred.
- 2013: Brandon Kublanow was a 4-star recruit and has been a three-year starter. The other linemen signed that year were Josh Cardiello (who has since transferred because of lack of playing time) and Aulden Bynum (who is working at second-team tackle right now), and DeVondre Seymour (who never played at Georgia.)
- 2012: Greg Pyke was only a 3-star recruit, so he’s proven to be a find, starting for three years. John Theus was a 5-star recruit and a four-year starter. Mark Beard was a 3-star junior college recruit who was a part-time starter.
Now, the recruiting is on Pittman’s ledger. He has three 4-star recruits committed for next year, which bodes well, and a 3-star pledge, and they’re all north of 310 pounds.
But Pittman — not available to the media, per Smart’s policy — is also known as a good developer of talent, and he’ll have to do plenty of that — in the long term, and the short term, starting Saturday, after one of the worst performances by a Georgia line in recent memory.
“It comes back to us saying we have the best back in the country,” Pyke said. “And there’s no way he should’ve been held to 80 yards.”