For the past four years, whenever Georgia would receive a commitment from a high-profile offensive linemen, former position coach Sam Pittman would post a video on social media saying his famous catchphrase “YES SIR” in excitement. The sentiment would be followed by Pittman usually waving pom-poms around and cheering on the Dawgs. That praise from Pittman caught wind on social media and became normal amongst fans since the start of the Kirby Smart era.
Sadly, that all changes as Smart and his players prepare for their season opener against Pittman in his first game as the head coach of Arkansas.
Smart met with reporters on Monday via Zoom and discussed about what it’s been like being in contact with Pittman throughout the pandemic.
“The first part — we have talked probably more in the last month or two months of trying to play the season,” Smart said. “Not just Sam and I, but coaches in general, the SEC coaches across the board. We have shared texts with guys that I am friends with and things like that. Sam — very similar — just how they are doing, what kind of camp they have had, what they have been able to do, really how you are managing a lot of the issues and problems we have dealt with.“
Pittman arrived in Athens in 2016 as apart of Smart’s initial staff serving as the offensive line coach. He served four years with that job title as well as being the associate head coach. Last December after Georgia’s loss to LSU, Pittman announced that he was taking the job at Arkansas.
In four seasons under Smart, he helped Georgia to three-straight SEC East Division titles, an SEC Championship, a Rose Bowl victory and a national championship appearance. He also coached several talented offensive linemen while in Athens, including a pair of 2020 first-round draft picks in Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson.
“He created that family atmosphere here,” Smart said. “He and Jamie did not have kids of their own, but all the o-linemen were their kids and always have been. That came to fruition for me when we hired him from Arkansas, because every offensive lineman that he had coached there prior to coming back here he had a really special relationship with, and they tried to keep him there. We were lucky to get him. He certainly contributed to our success.”
Pittman will now take over a program that went 2-10 last season, and hasn’t won an SEC conference game since October 2017. The Razorbacks will also have a tough time competing this season as they have one of the toughest schedules in the conference.
Pittman will have his work cut out for him with no experience coming in as a head coach. His situation is especially unique because isn’t every day that you see an offensive line coach make the jump to becoming a head coach.
Although, Smart said that he’s always seen that quality in his former colleague.
“He always had the traits of a head coach. Number 1- he’s a great leader, he’s a great person,” Smart said. “He commands the respect of the room when he speaks. He can be very emotional and you don’t always find that with an offensive line coach because they’re usually a little rough around the edges and he wears his feelings on his sleeve. He is very open with his players and I think he lets them in more than most O-line coaches do. That relationship really stands.
Smart also said that players valued Pittman for the kind of guy he was off the field as well.
“I always thought when our offensive line would get up in front of the team and speak. that they always talked about their relationship with Sam [Pittman] and how they felt about him, cared about him,” Smart said. “He got the opportunity to go and a lot of our guys reached out-they were hurt by it, but not hurt like they were mad at him. They were very thankful for his opportunity but they were going to miss that relationship.”
Georgia junior center Trey Hill confirmed what Smart said about Pittman always being supportive.
“I respected just how family-oriented he was and his energy on and off the field,” said Hill. “What you got on the field is what you got off the field. The way he takes care of his players and the love and support he gives them [stands out].”
Smart said that Pittman had always been a top-notch recruiter and coach, even before he came to Georgia.
“As far as what kind of mark he left on our program, I think that’s evidenced by the offensive lines we have had,” Smart said. “He was a really good recruiter. He was a relationship-driven coach. His players just love him and they all enjoy playing for him.”
Pittman met with the media Monday as well and offered his take on playing his former team.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, but I was nervous when I was an O-line coach too. It being against Georgia,” Pittman said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think Georgia would be the first team we play. I learned a lot from Kirby Smart, and he was very, very good to me. Without that, I wouldn’t be the head coach at Arkansas. Am I nervous? Yes. They’re an outstanding football team.”