As the Tennessee Vols’ search for a new offensive coordinator continues to unfold, not a lot of new information is being shared.
Most of that is probably due to the fact that Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt is focused on the early signing period. He doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to replace Helton, likely because he knows rushing the hire would be a big mistake. It’s important that Pruitt gets this hire right. The Vols need to show a lot of offensive improvement in year two of the Pruitt era.
For now, it feels like the coach most likely to be hired by Pruitt is Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. While that could certainly change, everything seems to be falling into place for Lindsey to make the jump from Auburn to Tennessee.
Things are currently a mess at Auburn. It appears that Gus Malzahn is going to hold on to his job as the Tigers’ head coach, but typically when a coach “holds on” to his job, it’s not a good sign for the future of the program.
Lindsey could either be let go, or he could decide to exit a less than ideal situation.
If that happens, then landing at Tennessee would make a lot of sense for Lindsey. He has a previous relationship with Pruitt from their time at Hoover High School.
But would this be a good move by Pruitt?
Honestly, I’m torn on whether or not it would be.
Auburn’s scoring offense ranked No. 73 in the nation in 2018. In Lindsey’s first season (2017), the Tigers ranked No. 27 in the nation. So the offense clearly took a step back this past season.
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham statistically regressed in 2018. His completion percentage dropped six points and his passer rating fell from 151 to 128.5. That’s certainly concerning. Stidham should’ve taken a step forward under Lindsey (who also serves as Auburn’s quarterbacks coach) this past season, not a step back.
Another mark against Lindsey is the fact that he nearly lost his play calling duties in 2018.
Malzahn gave Lindsey a vote of confidence when those reports surfaced.
“Chip’s going to call plays, and I think Chip’s done a solid job for the most part,” Malzahn said. “I’ve got confidence in him. I think for the most part, a lot of our plays have been good.”
“We just hadn’t, for whatever reason, been able to execute, especially in certain situations,” Malzahn said. “We’ve got to do a better job in that.”
A lot of Auburn’s offensive struggles in 2018 were blamed on the poor play of the offensive line. But either way, Malzahn’s words sound nearly identical to what Pruitt was saying about Tyson Helton’s play calling in 2018.
Lindsey blamed Auburn’s struggles on the Tigers’ entire offensive unit in September, telling reporters that missed blocking assignments by running backs were a big reason for the poor offensive play.
Is there a reason for Vol fans to be excited about Chip Lindsey?
I’ve pointed out a lot of negative, but there is a reason to be optimistic if Lindsey ends up being hired by Pruitt.
The offense that’s currently being used at Auburn doesn’t necessarily represent Lindsey’s offensive philosophy. Lindsey comes from an air-raid offense background (in the mold of Kliff Kingsbury, Mike Leach, Lincoln Riley, etc.).
If Lindsey were to come to Tennessee, he’d likely put his own spin on the offense. There would probably be a lot more spreading the wide receivers out and throwing the ball down the field, with more of a run game mixed in than we typically see in an air-raid offense (due to Lindsey’s time spent in Malzahn’s run first offense).
Without Malzahn influencing the offense, Lindsey could be great.
Lindsey was the offensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi from 2014-15. In 2014, the Golden Eagles had the No. 117 scoring offense in the nation. The next season, however, Southern Mississippi had the No. 13 scoring offense in the nation (and quarterback Nick Mullens is now in the NFL).
Hiring Lindsey would be a gamble, because the offense that Lindsey would likely run isn’t proven in the SEC (even though it worked at Southern Mississippi). At this point, Pruitt can’t afford to take a gamble. So if he hires Lindsey, Pruitt better be damn confident in his fellow Alabama native.
At least Lindsey is an experienced play caller, that’s more than Pruitt’s last offensive coordinator hire could say.
Featured image via John Reed-USA TODAY Sports