Jim Chaney

Pitt offensive coordinator Jim Chaney stands alongside running back Qadree Ollison during a Panthers football game ("Jeff Ahearn / The Pitt News")

Kirby Smart’s strategy on staff hires has been discernible so far: if you had trouble beating them, ask them to join you.

The Georgia head coach hired two offensive assistants on Dec. 12 in Pitt offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman. Smart’s familiarity with both coaches led the first-time head coach to hire the duo as part of his staff with the Bulldogs.  

Although Chaney spent the 2015 season with the Panthers, Smart faced him the previous six years during Chaney’s stops at Arkansas and Tennessee. Smart explained that Chaney uses multiple formations and remains balanced between the run and the pass. The Georgia head coach said his new offensive coordinator also adapts to the personnel on his team, which allows the most talented players to be involved.

This combination caused headaches for opposing defensive coordinators like Smart.   

“I had to call defenses against him,” Smart said. “He's created a lot of issues in what he does. He gets the best players the ball. That's what football is to me, and that's what's hard to defend.”

Pittman arrives at Georgia as one of the most highly-touted offensive line coaches in the country. He joins the Bulldogs after coaching a Razorbacks’ offensive line that was the largest in football, weighing a total of 1,638 pounds.

Smart was hesitant to say he wants to duplicate Pittman’s famed front from Fayetteville. Instead, he focused on the personable demeanor Pittman has displayed throughout his coaching career.

“He brings an unbelievable relationship with his players,” Smart said. “The common thing you get when you call around about Sam Pittman is how much he cares for his players and how much his players care for him. I think anytime you hear that many great things, it should tell you a lot about a person and their character.” 

Smart said Pittman’s strong suit is developing players. With the Southeastern Conference’s emphasis on overwhelming offensive line play, the Bulldogs need vast improvement. He’s watched Pittman turn out enough talent to believe he can help Georgia’s starters improve while also creating solid depth behind them.

With Chaney, Pittman and defensive staff member Glenn Schumann now on board, questions remain about who joins next.

Smart did not provide a timetable for his next hires and declared it was a “day-to-day” situation. He did say that the hires may not wait until Alabama’s season ends, leaving the window open for announcements to be made at any given point. He also did not commit to hiring a coach solely for special teams, saying it would be something decided in the near future.  

One of the big questions concerns which assistants from the Mark Richt era will remain with the program.

Smart explained one of his first orders of business was to sit down with the Georgia coaches and gauge their thoughts. They discussed what they wanted to do differently and what their future plans held. Smart said some were interested in remaining with the team, while others voiced their intentions of finding new jobs.

Running backs coach Thomas Brown and sam linebackers and star coach Kevin Sherrer are two coaches that are expected to stay with Smart. Both have pre-existing relationships with the new head coach; Smart was Brown’s running backs coach at Georgia in 2005, while Sherrer and Smart were on the Alabama coaching staff together for three years.

Smart called keeping these coaches on staff a “work-in-progress” but sounded as if it was on his to-do list.

“I feel comfortable with Thomas,” Smart said. “I think he's a great young man and a great asset to the program. I'm working to keep him here. Kevin's a guy that I've worked with. I have a lot of respect for Kevin. I think he does a great job.” 

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