Back in January, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt ended his search for a new offensive coordinator by hiring veteran play-caller Jim Chaney away from SEC East rival Georgia. Chaney was lured away to the tune of a nearly $5 million contract over three years at UT. The long-time offensive coordinator spent three years with the Bulldogs before leaving to come back and coach in Knoxville.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was asked about that move at SEC Media Days on Tuesday. According to Smart, he doesn’t think Chaney heading to Tennessee will give the Vols much of an advantage.
“Jim did a tremendous job for us. I got a great relationship with him,” Smart said per quotes obtained by 247Sports. “He worked really hard at our place. He helped us develop to where we are, and we wish him nothing but the best. I know he’s going across to one of our rivals, and we understand that and respect that.
“The fact he knows our personnel, I think that the game of football boils down to football players making plays, and there’s not going to be anything that Jim Chaney or myself can do out there on that field that our players aren’t going to control.”
Chaney was brought on as offensive coordinator by Smart when he was hired as Georgia’s head coach prior to the 2016 season. Chaney helped keep Georgia’s offense rolling along in 2016, and the 2017 and 2018 offenses at UGA were some of the most dynamic in the SEC. His last two offenses at Georgia averaged 449.6 yards and 36.5 points combined in the Bulldogs’ 29 games.
Georgia is replacing Chaney with 46-year-old James Coley. Smart promoted Coley from his co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach position not long after Chaney left for Tennessee. Coley has served as an OC at Miami (2013-15), Florida State (2010-12), and Florida International (2007).
Coley has been on UGA’s staff since Smart was hired as head coach, and Smart isn’t worried about a drop-off from Chaney to Coley.
“I think any time you build the infrastructure in a program, when people leave, as long as you’re not changing that infrastructure, it doesn’t create a lot of doubt or anxiety in the players,” Smart stated. “And certainly from my perspective, very comfortable after being in our system for three years that we’ve got really good coordinators. James, our offensive coordinator, has been with us a long time. I’ve known James from graduate assistant days back at LSU. I have tremendous respect for him. I know the offenses he’s worked with in the past, and he’s also been a part of ours. He has been a very integral part of that offense.
“So there won’t be a lot of change. It will be more about what our players can do than what our coaches do.”
For Coley, he’ll be taking over an offense that was one of the most explosive and potent in the SEC last season. For Chaney, he’ll be working on improving one of the worst offenses in the conference last year.
Among the 14 SEC teams last season, Tennessee ranked dead last in offensive yards per game, 13th in points per game, 13th in yards per play, last in first downs per game, and 10th in third down conversion percentage.
UT’s offense wasn’t all bad last season, though. The Vols ranked fourth in overall red zone scoring percentage and fourth in red zone touchdown percentage, and Tennessee’s offense was middle of the pack when it came to producing big plays.
Tennessee and Georgia will face-off on October 5th in Neyland Stadium. The kick-off time for that game has yet to be announced.