When an offensive coordinator search starts transforming into a quasi-meme, you’re headed toward rough waters.
But at least it’s finally over. Jeremy Pruitt found his guy to replace the unremarkable Tyson Helton, and it’s a guy everybody on Rocky Top knows — Jim Chaney.
This isn’t a “sexy” hire. This is the safest hire possible, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. From 2009-2012, Chaney was the mastermind behind some of Tennessee’s most prolific offenses in program history. Over the past two seasons, the Volunteer offense has been prolific in the area of lifelessness. Watching paint dry and grass grow simultaneously yielded more fruit and entertainment than the Vols’ offense has since 2017.
With Chaney, those days are presumably over. During his time in Athens as Georgia’s offensive coordinator, the Bulldog offense steadily averaged more points per game, going from 24.5 to 35.4 to 37.9. They even had respectable success against Nick Saban, even if Georgia ultimately choked against two Crimson Tide backup quarterbacks.
Chaney obviously reaped the benefits of coaching uber-talented running backs such as Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Elijah Holyfield, and D’Andre Swift. Tennessee isn’t loaded at the position to that degree, but given the talents of Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan, the cupboard isn’t bare by any means.
Where Chaney will really have to work his magic is at quarterback. Jarrett Guarantano — despite his toughness and mistake-free brand of football — isn’t anywhere close to level of competency needed to challenge elite defensive teams such as Alabama and Georgia.
Luckily for Guarantano, Chaney has a history of quarterback whispering. In 2012, quarterback Tyler Bray threw for over 3,600 yards and 34 touchdowns for an offense that averaged over 36 points per game.
Reaching that level of production is unlikely for Guarantano at an immediate stage, but the long-term health of Tennessee’s quarterback position is in good shape with Chaney on board.
All in all, there will be no reinvention of the offensive wheel on Rocky Top. What Pruitt needs is an offensive play caller he can depend on. One with experience against the big-time SEC opponents.
Chaney has that in spades.
He’s the safe hire, but given how the search played out, it’s exactly what Pruitt and the Vols needed.