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How Sam Pittman can put together the greatest offensive line class of all-time for Georgia football
The Great Wall of China wasn’t built over the span of a few years or rulers. It took centuries to build, with the earliest portions of the wall date as far back as 700 BC. The large sections of the wall that still stand today were erected between the 14th and 17th century by the Ming Dynasty.
Flash forward to today and it looks like Georgia is piecing together its own great wall of sorts. Fans have taken to calling Georgia’s 2020 offensive line recruiting haul the Great Wall of Georgia. And with three 4-star prospects in tow and a 5-star prospect in Broderick Jones, it’s easy to see why it’s one of the best offensive line recruiting classes in the country.
Related: Joshua Braun commits to Georgia
Much like the Great Wall of China, Georgia combined wall after wall when it comes to its offensive line recruiting classes. The Bulldogs have signed at least one 5-star prospect and two 4-star prospects in each of the last three recruiting cycles.
But offensive line coach Sam Pittman isn’t finished building his potential masterpiece just yet. Georgia is still very much in the running for the nation’s No. 3 offensive guard Andrew Raym and the nation’s No. 3 center, Sedrick Van Pran.
Raym, the No. 1 player in the state of Oklahoma, has made two visits to Georgia this month, with his most recent being his official visit. Georgia meanwhile was the first school to offer Van Pran. He just released his top-8, which featured the Bulldogs along with a number of other national powers.
📍#GoDawgs OV 🐶
— Andrew Raym7️⃣2️⃣ (@andrew_raymBAHS) June 14, 2019
If Georgia can land both of those players, the six-man haul could end up being the best offensive line recruiting class of since recruiting rankings first emerged at the turn of the century.
Between the four Georgia commits, the Bulldogs have a total of 17 stars at the moment. If Pittman and Georgia coach Kirby Smart just stopped there, it would be a great haul, and easily one of the best in the country for the 2020 cycle. But it would fall short of some of the other historically great offensive line recruiting hauls.
Since the inception of recruiting rankings back in 2000, 13 times a team has put together an offensive line class that consisted of 20 total stars and at least two top-100 overall prospects. Georgia is already on the list twice, as the Bulldogs broke the 20-star threshold in 2017 and 2018.
Statistically, the current belt holder for the greatest offensive line recruiting class of all-time is the 2012 Stanford class. That year, David Shaw was able to sign seven offensive linemen that combined for a total of 28 stars. The class had depth but also high-end talent, as it had two 5-star players and a third signee ranked inside the top 40. Two of those players —Andrus Peat and Joshua Garnett — went on to become first-round picks.
|Total stars||Top 100 prospects||Top 10 player at position|
|2010 Texas A&M||21||2||2|
In the event that Georgia lands Raym and Van Pran and Ratledge gets bumped up to a slight bump up to a 5-star prospect, the best the Bulldogs could do is finish with 26 stars. It would be the second best class of all-time in that statistic. However, when factoring in that Georgia would have one fewer commit than the ‘12 Stanford haul, the Bulldogs would have a compelling case as the most talented offensive line group of all-time.
Pittman nearly put together an equal class back in 2017 when he signed six offensive linemen who came in with a total of 24 stars. However, 4-star signee D’Antne Demery never made officially joined the team after he was arrested before enrolling and dropped from the team.
Van Pran is the No. 106 ranked prospect in the country. Should he move into the top-1oo and Raym — currently the No. 90 overall player — stays there, Georgia could become the first school to land four offensive linemen who rank as top-100 overall players.
Should Ratledge get bumped up to 5-star status — and Jones retain his —it would be the 10th time in the history of the rankings that a school signed two 5-star offensive linemen. Georgia did this back in 2018 when it landed Jamaree Salyer and Cade Mays. Tennessee is the most recent team to do this, as the Volunteers landed Darnell Wright and Wanya Morris in the 2019 cycle.
|Schools to sign multiple 5-star prospects||Year|
The offensive line is probably the least glamorous position to talk about. In general, people don’t get as excited about landing an elite offensive tackle as they do say a 5-star quarterback or wide receiver.
But if you look at the teams that populate the 20-star club, you’ll see a number of teams that won a ton of games. Alabama won multiple championships thanks to its offensive line. Stanford had its best run in modern history thanks to its big guys up front.
Texas A&M’s run in the early part of the Kevin Sumlin era was fueled by the 2010 recruiting class, which featured three eventual future first round picks. The 2009 Iowa team that won the Orange Bowl had multiple members from its 2005 class play big roles.
Some might point to Florida State’s 2016 class as a reason recruiting might be overvalued. In 2018, only two Power Five teams gave up more sacks per game than Florida State did. That’s where Pittman’s coaching acumen comes into play. He’s been able to develop lesser-heralded recruits like Solomon Kindley into a multi-year starter. When Ben Cleveland — who many thought was a tackle coming out of high school given his size — was inserted into the starting lineup in 2017, he became a real difference maker.
Georgia has signed six 5-star running backs dating back to 2011. Many hope that 2020 prospect Kendall Milton becomes the seventh, as he just wrapped up his official visit to Georgia this past weekend. The Bulldogs have never had a lack of talent at running back. But in the five seasons prior to Pittman’s arrival at Georgia, the Bulldogs only led the SEC in rushing once.
With Pittman’s offensive line paving the way, the Bulldogs led the SEC in rushing in each of the past two seasons. And despite having to replace Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, Georgia actually had a better yards per carry average in 2018 than they did in 2017. With D’Andre Swift healthy heading into his junior season, the Bulldogs once again seem poised to lead the conference in rushing.
When you meld that coaching acumen with his recruiting chops, it’s easy to see Pittman as perhaps the best offensive line coach in the country.
“He develops a relationship and makes the kid feel very special,” Dean Ratledge, father of Tate, said. “Which they all try to do. All of these guys can sell ice to an Eskimo. But coach Pittman just really comes off as being a real guy that is really concerned and will really mentor and care for your kid.”
Just in the 2020 class alone, Pittman convinced a long-time Tennessee fan — Ratledge — and someone who had two brothers who played at Georgia Tech — Joshua Braun — to commit to Georgia.
And if you don’t think other top players notice a great offensive line, just listen to what Milton’s father had to say about Georgia’s 2020 haul and how it might help the Bulldogs land another elite running back.
“Just like with Georgia and how they are putting together this ‘hellafied” line,” Chris Milton said. “It is big. I mean the No. 1 line in the country in the nation as an offensive line. We absolutely look at the resources here but we truly understand it is what we do with all of those resources that make all of this stuff manifest.”
— Chris Milton (@fatherofballers) June 16, 2019
As for what is left for Pittman on the 2020 recruiting trail, it’s Raym and Van Pran. To land both of them, he’ll have to pull the No. 1 player in the state of Oklahoma away from the Sooners and the No. 3 player in the state of Louisiana out of the Bayou.
Admittedly, that’s a tall task. But because of Pittman and all that he brings to the table, Georgia has put itself in a position to build together an all-time great offensive line class.
“I want to play for someone who is obviously prestigious,” Raym said. “Like you said because coach Pittman and I have quite a bit of similarity and when we talk, we talk for a long time. I feel a little bit of a connection with him and I am just keeping him in mind.”
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