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Georgia seeks O-line coach as 'silly season' begins

New Arkansas coach Sam Pittman.
New Arkansas coach Sam Pittman.

This time of year used to be called “silly season” in college football because of all the coaching changes that usually came with it. But now you add an early signing period in recruiting and silly just isn’t strong enough a word.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart used “crazy” a couple of times last week. Let’s call it Demented December for the sake of alliteration.

Whatever one calls it, Georgia was fully swept up in it as of Monday.

The Bulldogs lost Sam Pittman -- their beloved offensive line coach of the last four years and secret weapon in recruiting -- to Arkansas on Monday. The 58-year-old lifetime assistant coach was officially announced as the Razorbacks’ latest head coach at a festive introduction ceremony/pep rally Monday afternoon at the Walker Indoor Pavilion.

A teary-eyed Pittman had to choke back tears several times as he struggled to make his opening remarks.

“I’m not gonna do it; not gonna do it,” he kept saying to himself out loud. But he did it, finally walking away from the dais to compose himself.

“I’m a wreck,” he said upon his return to the microphones. “I’m humbled and excited to be your coach.”

Pittman also tossed a few bouquets Georgia way. Known for signing an incredible number of elite offensive line prospects, Pittman gave credit to Smart for taking his recruiting game to another level.

“I thought I knew how to recruit until I joined Kirby Smart at Georgia,” Pittman said. “He showed me how to recruit with passion. It was recruiting on steroids.”

Pittman can’t be blamed for leaving for a head coaching job. He was the highest-paid offensive line coach in the country (also held title of associate head coach) at $950,000 a year. At Arkansas, he received a five-year contract that will pay him $3 million a year and includes bonus of $250,000 for a six-win season and $750,000 for eight wins.

The Bulldogs can only hope Pittman is there only defection this year. First-year defensive coordinator Dan Lanning is fielding a bunch of offers, including one to follow Mike Norvell, who he worked for at Memphis, to Florida State. He’s also expected to get an offer from Pittman at Arkansas. The 33-year-old Lanning, who is a finalist for the Frank Broyles Award, led Georgia’s defense to a Top 10 national ranking in points, yards and rushing allowed.

But Lanning would be leaving behind a lot of certainty for loads of uncertainty with either move. The Bulldogs feature the youngest overall team in the SEC and one of the better returning defenses in the league as well. Expect Smart to do whatever he must to keep Lanning and his other defensive assistants in Athens.

In the meantime, Smart has to at least find a new offensive line coach. There are several good ones available, most notably recently-fired Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke. Luke is an O-line coach by trade. However, the Rebels still owe him at least $2.5 million over the next year.

Persons familiar with knowledge of Luke’s situation say he may have interest in continuing to work but that he had not been contacted by Georgia as of Monday. Luke is represented by Memphis-based agent Jimmy Sexton, who is also Smart’s agent.

There are a few younger offensive line coaches who have worked before with Smart, including Tulane’s Cody Kennedy and Louisiana-LaFayette’s D.J. Looney.

One person who most definitely won’t be joining Smart’s staff this year is Mike Bobo. Recently ousted as head coach at Colorado State, the longtime UGA offensive coordinator signed a deal Monday to become Will Muschamp’s offensive coordinator at South Carolina. There had been speculation that Bobo might join Smart, his good friend and former Bulldogs’ teammate. Georgia’s offense struggled under first-year coordinator James Coley, whose work was marred with a rash of injuries at the wide receiver position.