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Smart back in hiring mode with departure of OL coach Matt Luke

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NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Georgia vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia offensive line coach Matt Luke appears to be on the move. According to multiple reports the former Ole Miss head coach is stepping down after two seasons overseeing the Bulldog front.

UGA fans could be forgiven for feeling conflicted about the move. Obviously Georgia won a national title in 2021 after averaging 38.6 points per game, powerful evidence that Luke was doing something right. But the rushing offense was 5th in the SEC in 2020 and 6th in the league in 2021, and at times during both seasons looked far from dominant up front. Those who remember watching the Sam Pittman-coached units of prior seasons that often road-graded opponents into submission couldn’t help but notice the difference. That being said the Red and Black’s 16 sacks allowed in 15 games was the lowest average in the conference and among the top ten nationally. So while it may not be fair to say that Luke produced historically good units at Georgia, it would be just as unfair to say that his units didn’t produce. Kirby Smart and Todd Monken wanted an offensive line that could fit into a more wide open attack, and Luke seems to have delivered just that.

On the recruiting trail Luke did secure commitments from some talented players like Bleckley County 5 star Amarius Mims and 2022 California standout Earnest Greene. But there were also some pretty high profile misses. There are certainly some names already emerging as potential replacements, but I would look for the final choice in true Kirby fashion to be someone who can recruit.

If you’re looking for names to replace him, I’d point out that former Bulldog Nick Jones just won a Super Bowl as the assistant offensive line coach for the Rams. Former ‘Dawg Fernando Velasco, who worked with Pittman in Athens, currently works for him in a player personnel role at Arkansas. The Razorbacks’ offensive line coach Cody Kennedy also worked for Pittman in Athens in 2018. But it is safe to say that Coach Smart is going to have a stack of resumes taller than Vince Vance if he’s open to looking through them.

The timing of the announcement is admittedly a little odd. Matt Luke is unlikely to have decided to suddenly make a go at the NFL, and there are no major college openings to which he’s been connected. This feels like a guy taking some time after the season to consider whether he wants to step away for family or health reasons (hopefully the former, we pray not the latter) and ultimately deciding there’s no better time than after winning a championship. If that’s the case, it would be surprising if Kirby Smart hasn’t already put some legwork into finding a replacement. That’s especially true given that Georgia starts spring practice on March 15th.

Even if this move was in the works for awhile it is yet more turnover for a staff that will replace its defensive coordinator, defensive backs coach, wide receivers coach, and now offensive line coach. Until later...

Go ‘Dawgs!!!