Stealing Jim Chaney from Georgia was a major coup for Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee
Tennessee took its time, focused on recruiting and eventually landed an upgrade at one of the key positions on its coaching staff.
There’s no arguing that the search for UT’s next offensive coordinator was a struggle. Coaches were interviewed, coaches were offered and coaches seemed to just be playing the “give me a raise” game. That’s all fine now since UT coach Jeremy Pruitt was able to hire Jim Chaney from one of UT’s fiercest rivals, the Georgia Bulldogs.
Such a hire seemed like a pipe dream when Tyson Helton accepted the Western Kentucky head coaching job immediately following the regular season. In Chaney, UT has a bona fide offensive coordinator, a respected offensive mind and a coach that can develop quarterbacks. He obviously knows Tennessee, too, having been the Vols’ OC from 2009-2012. It’s also worth noting that spent 3 years with the St. Louis Rams, before his first stint with the Vols. That NFL experience should be valuable in recruiting.
Jim Chaney is a monster hire for Pruitt & Tennessee. Mixes the run game as well as anyone. Will help offset the OL issues. Subtracts from a team in division as well. Big win IMO.
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) January 9, 2019
You probably know that Chaney coached NFL superstar Drew Brees at Purdue and that Chaney helped keep Georgia in contention for the College Football Playoff until the bitter end. Chaney is a stellar hire. Pruitt shouldn’t be underestimated as a program builder considering he improved UT’s coaching staff despite a losing season and pervasive rumors that he was tough on offensive coaches.
If you listen to talk radio and read message boards, Pruitt is supposed to be a meddling, defensive-minded coach who is hard to work for. Chaney joining UT’s staff would seem to dispute that. Pruitt overcame a better program to land Chaney, a program that has thoroughly handled the Vols in recent history. That’s a pretty good feather in Pruitt’s cap.
Chaney leaving Georgia seems a bit odd despite the reasons that have been floated around. It’s been said that Chaney loves East Tennessee. It’s been said that Chaney got a raise. Those both might be true, but landing a proven coach in such an important position is a win, no matter what some might say.
Chaney has proven himself in the SEC. During his time at UT, the Vols were respectable on offense in years in which they had very little talent. As the offensive players on UT’s roster improved, the Vols eventually were the second-best offense in the SEC under Chaney in 2012. Chaney spend a season in Pittsburgh in 2015 and managed to resurrect former Vol quarterback Nathan Peterman’s career. Then it was off to Athens.
Chaney’s time at Georgia was impressive. The Bulldogs ranked fifth in the SEC in offense over the past two seasons despite the fact that they were a run-based offense. The Bulldogs were ground based while other SEC offenses were determined to be more aggressive. That was a perfect fit for Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and should be the same for Pruitt.
Landing Chaney is just the first step of the process for Pruitt in hopes of rebuilding UT’s lowly offense, which ranked next-to-last in the SEC in scoring in 2018, producing a meager 22.8 points per game. Pruitt needs to prove he’ll allow Chaney to work and call the offensive shots.
Reports surfaced throughout the season that Pruitt wasn’t happy with the direction of UT’s offense in 2018. Pruitt can’t let himself be so controlling with Chaney. He’s proven himself in a way that Helton never did. Their friction was well documented. It’s time for Pruitt to delegate and trust his offensive coaches. If Pruitt can stay out of Chaney’s way, UT will be a better offense in 2019 and things should only get better.