ATHENS – The world has seen the pom-poms, accompanied by Sam Pittman’s now-trademark “yesssir” exclamation. It has laughed at, or along with, the Georgia offensive line coach, who clearly is in on the joke, and embraces it. He is the coach who doesn’t take himself too seriously.
“He’s a chill coach,” Georgia center Lamont Gaillard said. “He keeps our minds right, in the room and on the field. Even if we’re in the room we’re focused, but we’re laughing and joking with him. But we still get the job done.”
Both on and off the field, lately.
Georgia was the marvel of the college football world during signing day on Wednesday, inking two five-star offensive linemen (Jamaree Salyer and Cade Mays) and two four-stars (Trey Hill and Warren Ericson).
That was a year after Georgia, with Pittman also leading the way, signed five-star Isaiah Wilson out of New York, and three more four-stars, one of whom has started every game this season for the Bulldogs.
“He can ‘yes sir’ all he wants and I will be saying ‘yes sir’ too,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said.
There was a reason Pittman’s player at Arkansas went to his house two years ago to try to talk him out of leaving for Georgia. And there was a reason Kirby Smart gave Pittman a three-year contract and big reason to come. And there’s a reason Pittman, after a slow start, has proven to be an elite recruiter.
— Coach Sam Pittman (@CoachSamPittman) December 20, 2017
In his first year at Georgia, admittedly after joining the team late in the cycle, he missed on several key prospects.
“I think Sam took that to heart and I think Coach Pittman is one of the best recruiters in the country,” Smart said. “He proved that by putting what was a really good offensive line group together last year and followed it up with another very complete, diverse group for this year.”
So what makes him such a good recruiter? Probably what also makes him a good coach, beloved by his players: Personable, direct but not overbearing.
“He was a huge part for me,” said Owen Condon, an offensive tackle in Oklahoma who signed with Georgia on Wednesday. “Relationships mean a lot to me and I had the best relationship with him.”
And from a current player:
“He’s just himself,” Gaillard said “And when you have somebody who cares for the O-line personally and how you perform, it shows a lot in your coach. That’s good for recruiting as well, so he’s just himself. He doesn’t change it from when he’s on the field.”
It’s rare that Pittman raises his voice at his players on the practice field.
“If he does then you know you did something wrong,” Gaillard said.
How often does that happen?
“Barely,” Gaillard said. “Probably once a week. You rarely see it.”
The play of Georgia’s offensive line also got off to a slow start under Pittman, with the unit struggling mightily in 2016. Then it lost three starters, resulting in the need to start a true freshman (Andrew Thomas at right tackle), a redshirt freshman (Solomon Kindley and then Ben Cleveland at right guard), and a junior who had been seemingly forgotten the past few years (Kendall Baker at left guard.)
But Georgia’s line play turned around this year, both in run and pass protection. And with only one starter due to leave – left tackle Isaiah Wynn – and all this young talent on hand and on the way, the Bulldogs will finally be blessed with an overloaded offensive line room.
“You can’t promise every guy playing time,” Smart said. “Those kids that are coming in understand that they have to come in and work for it. What drew each of them to Georgia was Sam Pittman and the fact that he does it different. He does it old school: He develops relationships.”