Georgia fifth-year football coach Kirby Smart didn't reveal the new Bulldogs starting quarterback or their new kicker during Monday afternoon's weekly news conference, but he didn't lack for praise when it came to new Arkansas coach Sam Pittman.
Pittman served as Smart's offensive line coach the past four seasons before getting his first head-coaching opportunity last December with the Razorbacks. His ascension to guiding a Southeastern Conference program has transpired without ever having served in a coordinator role.
"He always had the traits of a head coach," Smart said. "He's a great leader, and he's a great person. 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, but 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. When our offensive line would get up in front of the team and speak, they always talked about their relationship with Sam and how they felt about him."
Georgia and Arkansas meet this Saturday (4 p.m. on SEC Network) at Reynolds Razorback Stadium from very different directions. The Bulldogs have won three consecutive SEC East titles for the first time in school history, while the Razorbacks have lost a program-record 19 straight league games.
Pittman did his part to help Georgia's recent rise to national prominence that has included Sugar Bowl trips the past two seasons and a Rose Bowl journey before that. He helped the Bulldogs sign an eye-popping 11 offensive linemen who were top-100 national signees during his time in Athens - Ben Cleveland in 2016, Isaiah Wilson, Andrew Thomas and Netori Johnson in 2017, Jamaree Salyer, Cade Mays and Trey Hill in 2018, Clay Webb in 2019, and Tate Ratledge, Broderick Jones and Sedrick Van Pran earlier this year.
"He was a really good recruiter, and he was a relationship-driven coach," Smart said. "His players just loved him, and they all enjoyed playing for him. He created that family atmosphere. He and Jamie did not have kids of their own, but all the O-linemen were their kids and always have been. We were lucky to get him, and he certainly contributed to our success."
Said Hill: "I respected just how family-oriented he was and his energy on and off the field. What you got on the field is what you got off the field."
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