ATHENS — When it came to building his new Georgia staff, Kirby Smart targeted two jobs very quickly: Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. So it was no accident the men who got those jobs knew each other well and were announced at the same time.
“That first piece was to get that offensive coordinator and offensive line coach together, that tandem,” Smart said on Monday, two days after Jim Chaney was announced as offensive coordinator, and Sam Pittman as offensive line coach.
Smart had a one-word answer Monday when asked what he liked most about Chaney, who had been at Pittsburgh this year, after two years at Arkansas and four at Tennessee.
“Balance. He’s always been able to run the ball when he has to run the ball. He’s been able to throw the ball when that was a strength of his,” Smart said. “He’s multiple offense. Uses a lot of formations. He uses the tight ends well. He’s really a guy that uses whatever personnel he has. And that intrigued me. Without going into detail, which I don’t want to do, when I met with him I felt really comfortable and had a really good feeling.”
Smart, while guiding Alabama’s defense, had faced a Chaney-coached offense six straight years from 2009-14.
“I’ve had to call defenses against him and he’s created a lot of issues with what he does,” Smart said. “He takes his best players and gets his best players the ball. That’s what football is to me. That’s what’s hard to defend. And I’ve always thought he’s done a good job with that.”
Then there’s Pittman, who worked with Chaney for two years at Arkansas and one year at Tennessee. Smart was asked what Pittman brings to Georgia.
“Apparently he brings an unbelievable relationship with his players,” Smart said. “It’s amazing to me that to be an O-line coach and be as effective as he’s been, and productive as he’s been, and the (most frequent) comment you get when you call around about Sam Pittman is how great a person he is, and how much he cares for his players, how much his players care for him. Every reference the guy had was amazing, how many good things you hear about him. Any time you hear that many good things about him it should tell you a lot about a person and their character.”
Offensive line was a huge priority, Smart said, because the SEC is “line of scrimmage league.” Georgia’s line was a strength in 2014 but dipped this year, not dealing well after the loss of David Andrews, who emerged as a rookie starter for the New England Patriots. Next year the Bulldogs lose two starters, tackles John Theus and Kolton Houston.
“I think that’s an area where we’ve gotta improve,” Smart said. “We’ve gotta get bigger people on the offensive and defensive front to be successful. And we’ve gotta get more depth within the people we have. (Pittman) has been able to do that. He’s been able to recruit successfully. He’s been able to develop players. He’s proven that all the places he’s been. He’s been able to run the ball. I’ve got a lot of respect for the way his offensive line’s have played when we’ve played against them. That speaks volumes to me for him as a person.”
Pittman has tended to recruit bigger lineman, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the new guiding philosophy at Georgia.
“I don’t know, that’s a good question. I want the best offensive line, I don’t want the biggest,” Smart said, chuckling. “So it’s all relative to what we’re gonna do offensively. I want whatever gives us the best chance to be successful.”