It was bound to happen with Sam Pittman.
He is just too good at his job and had always planned to retire in Arkansas one day.
That timetable went fast with the strong pull from Arkansas. Pittman has taken the head coaching job at Arkansas in a most uncommon move from position coach to head coach. He makes the move with zero experience as an offensive coordinator or a head coach for that matter. At least outside of the high school or junior college ranks.
But he’s the sort that can get it done. Pittman will be able to assemble an excellent staff and make SEC Media Days far more interesting going forward.
Sam can recruit. Players love him. He will bring an unmistakable attitude to Arkansas football. He knows the landscape & will ha able to put a solid staff together. Big fan of this move. Congrats @CoachSamPittman https://t.co/gTfQWCP81g
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) December 9, 2019
The big DawgNation questions abound now.
Can Georgia keep what was shaping up to be a historic offensive line class together? That doesn’t seem likely. Especially given how some of them were so closely tied to Pittman and that long sustained relationship was the reason why they chose Georgia over other elite programs.
Pittman also built his classes early. He had his work done months in advance. So that means the Bulldogs haven’t had a lot of groundwork with backup plans. The thinking here is the next hire will likely need to have strong relationships built with their own targets to be able to replace any departures with what was set to be the highest-rated overall OL signing class in program history.
Let’s look at the current Georgia o-line class as a whole and try to anticipate where things stand. We’ll assess each of the five commitments with the latest 247Sports Composite rankings.
Georgia is now coming up on nine days before the first day of the early signing period. The biggest remaining weekend for official and unofficial visitors will be this weekend.
5-star OT Broderick Jones/Lithonia High/Lithonia, Ga.
Saturday position fit: Left tackle
National rankings: Nation’s No. 2 OT prospect and No. 19 overall/
His spot in the class: Rankings place him No. 2 out of Georgia’s 15 public commitments.
Committed since: April 26, 2018 (At least. Was a silent pledge for at least a month prior.)
Ties to Pittman factoring in the overall strength of commitment to UGA: Very strong ties here. This should be seen as a decision that now impacts him greatly.
He chose Georgia over interest in these programs: Auburn, Illinois, South Carolina and Miami.
Early enrollee: No.
A thing or two to know here: Jones wasn’t planning on signing during the early period. But his fondness for Pittman might have eventually swayed him early. … Look for him to now go on all his official visits to several schools like Auburn, Miami and South Carolina, among others. The Bulldogs do have a chance to get back in here with a strong replacement hire. The proximity of Georgia and the scope of the program are major draws here. … There’s just an unknown here. He’s going to likely hit the reset button on everything now.
4-star OT Tate Ratledge/Darlington School/Rome, Ga.
Saturday position fit: Right tackle
National rankings: Nation’s No. 3 OT prospect and No. 36 overall
Committed since: May 13, 2019
Ties to Pittman factoring in the overall strength of commitment to UGA: Very strong ties here to both Pittman and his overall feeling of a great all-around fit at Georgia. Ratledge has a sense of investment in the program by now. He was at every home game he could attend and was one of the behind-the-scenes leaders for 2020. The well-respected prospect is close to a good group of the current class.
His spot in the class: Rankings place him No. 3 out of Georgia’s 15 public commitments.
He chose Georgia over interest in these programs: Tennessee and Alabama.
Early enrollee: No.
A thing or two to know here: Ratledge planned to sign during the early period but not graduate early. … He grew up a Tennesse plan but the overall scope of Georgia and the relationship with Pittman was the major factor. … He did realize that coaches do come and go even one as uncommonly popular and genuine as Pittman. If the right replacement hire is made, he seems like one of the more likely commits to remain in the Georgia class. He’s grown close to QB commitment Carson Beck and RB pledge Kendall Milton. DawgNation has learned that the Pittman news does not affect the strength of their respective commitments to UGA.
I will not be answering questions on my current situation. This will stay between me and my family for now. Thank you
— Tate Ratledge (@tateratledge22) December 9, 2019
4-star Sedrick Van Pran-Granger/Warren Easton/New Orleans, La.
Saturday position fit: Center
National rankings: Nation’s No. 3 C prospect and No. 103 overall
Spot in the class: Rankings place him No. 7 out of Georgia’s 15 public commitments.
Committed since: Aug. 7, 2019.
Ties to Pittman factoring in the overall strength of his commitment to UGA: Very strong ties here to both Pittman and UGA. But he also liked the location as he already has family in Georgia or planning to move there. … The future graphic design major did love the idea of playing for Pittman, though. .. The Georgia depth chart still stacks up well for him.
He chose Georgia over interest in these programs: Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
Early enrollee: No.
A thing or two to know here: Van Pran was not expected to sign during the early period. He has always placed the focus on his Warren Easton state championship run ahead of any official visits during his senior season … Van Pran-Grainger will now likely take the official visits he told Sam Spiegelman of Rivals.com he was planning on taking anyway. … Look for him to give Georgia a new look and it might still work out. But this will be one of the toughest commitments to retain in this class.
4-star Chad Lindberg/Clear Creek High /League City, Tex.
Saturday position fit: Guard or tackle
National rankings: Nation’s No. 17 OT and No. 169 overall
His spot in the class: Rankings place him No. 9 out of Georgia’s 15 public commitments.
Committed since: July 28, 2019.
Ties to Pittman factoring in the overall strength of his commitment to UGA: Very strong ties here. Pittman was essentially the difference. The distance away from his Texas roots wasn’t going to be the easiest move, but the Pittman move now makes Texas and Texas A&M major factors.
He chose Georgia over interest in these programs: LSU, Texas, Texas A&M and USC.
Early enrollee: No.
A thing or two to know here: Incredible academic profile with his AP classes and weighted approximate 5.43 Texas-sized GPA. He will enroll in college as a sophomore with those AP credits and was going to be able to get a master’s degree in four years. … Arkansas could become a factor here with Pittman and the location fit. .. Could play either guard or tackle in college like Cade Mays has for Georgia. Lots of untapped potential here with this young man. A college weight program will retool his body and added another level to his on-field play. … He had already taken all five of his officials. This will also be one of the toughest commitments to retain in this current class.
Josh Braun/Suwanne High /Live Oak, Fla.
Saturday position fit: Guard or tackle
National rankings: Nation’s No. 22 T and No. 285 overall
His spot in the class: Rankings place him No. 13 out of Georgia’s 15 public commitments.
Committed since: June 10, 2019.
Ties to Pittman factoring in the overall strength of his commitment to UGA: Pittman was the ace in the hole on a well-researched recruiting march. That said, Georgia fit Braun on many tiers. He wanted to play for a championship-level program but do so at a strong academic institution with an elite strength and conditioning program. Those are all still there at UGA.
He chose Georgia over interest in these programs: Florida and South Carolina.
Early enrollee: Yes
A thing or two to know: There’s some faith Georgia can retain Braun, but the timing works against him because he planned to sign during the early period and enroll in January. … His two older brothers started for many seasons at Georgia Tech and Texas so his family knows how coaches come and go. … Don’t let the rankings fool you. DawgNation projects Braun to be as likely to play well in the SEC as any O-line prospect in this class. He’s wired for success with his mean streak, size, athleticism and military family background. … He politely declined to comment about the move other than to wish Pittman well. .. His decision will be a big piece of keeping the line class together at UGA.
Josh Braun on the Pittman move: “It’s a tough process but I am thrilled for coach Pittman and I hope he is successful at Arkansas.”
Georgia football: 3 things with the Sam Pittman decision
The hasty and reckless thing to do here would be to offer up a prediction. That’s because so much will hinge on assurances from Kirby Smart with these young men this week and also a quick replacement with a strong background.
The only statement with accuracy to be made here is that this O-line class might stay together if the current other commits keep them in the fold because of the relationships they have already established about looking forward to playing together.
That’s one way. The other would be if a strong voice in this class like Ratledge or Braun decides they still want to be Bulldogs and this class as a unit still comes in together because they want to be special. Even not playing for Pittman. It will be hard for all of them to find another group of young men with so much potential this late in the game. The boards at other elite programs could only shift slightly at this point to take advantage of this opening with Georgia’s line class.
With that, there are three other thoughts on the matter.
- Georgia will hunker down to keep all of this together: The first element to try and keep all of this together would be finding the new O-line coach. The right O-line coach.
How quickly does that happen? Especially with the early signing period AND the only major official visit weekend left before that time comes up this weekend.
It would make a lot of sense to have the new OL coach in place by then. The confidence point here for DawgNation is that this is recruiting time. That is the one time of the year where Kirby Smart and this staff has done nothing but come up aces in that department. Bet on that to be well-executed.
- The retention of the draft-eligible players on the current roster: It seems logical to consider that Pittman moving on is a pause button for those Bulldogs who were thinking about going pro or not going pro.
This forces them to really look at both sides of this. Maybe even when they thought they had it all figured out. Don’t think Thomas and Wilson are in play here. But what about a Ben Cleveland or a Solomon Kindley?
Coming back to play for Pittman would have been a consideration. He’s close with all of his guys. But coming back to play for a new O-line coach with the thoughts of an NFL future looming?
Hmm. It makes the pull to the Sunday league even stronger now.
- Georgia’s offensive identity: If there was ever a time to do something different with the UGA offense, then this would be the time to look at this month and this week as a crossroads. It was already the time to do it after the LSU loss.
Why? That’s because the way those last two seasons ended with Alabama. The closure to the 2019 season wasn’t like those near-misses with the Tide. Georgia wasn’t one player away (Sony Michel or D’Andre Walker injury) or a 2nd-and-26 from being right there as a national championship-level team.
It can be a time to look at the Georgia Way in the mirror and see if the offensive identity needs to consider the changes Nick Saban made after those early decade losses to Auburn’s Gus Malzahn. The same thing with Ed Oregon and the rejuvenation of the LSU program.
And then there’s this new sudden change with Pittman leading the offensive line room.
Jim Chaney and Pittman were tied together. Not James Coley and Pittman.
It might be a moment of opportunity for a program that was going to have to take a hard look at whether some LSU or Alabama changes need to be made to the Georgia offensive attack going forward.