By Jimmy Hyams
Jim Chaney was an absolute home run hire for Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt.
Does that mean the Vols will win two more games next season?
Not necessarily. But it does mean the UT program with Chaney’s offensive mind and Pruitt’s defensive mind and this staff’s ability to recruit is definitely headed in the right direction.
One long-time SEC coach told me “Chaney is the best offensive coordinator in the SEC.’’
Pruitt established himself at Alabama and Georgia as one of the best defensive minds in the SEC.
That’s a strong combination.
Chaney’s hiring came with a big price tag: three years at $4.8 million. Chaney will make $1.5 million the first year, $1.6 million the second year, $1.7 million the third year.
Tennessee will pay Chaney’s $500,000 buyout to leave Georgia with two years left on his contract.
In a UT release, Pruitt said Chaney “couldn’t be a better fit’’ and that he liked the way Chaney “adapted his offenses to his players’ strength,’’ and that’s he had offenses that ranked near the top in passing and rushing and that he can coach all positions on offense.
Pruitt told me during an interview he wasn’t sure if Chaney would coach quarterbacks, but that seems to be the logical move.
“I think Jim does a fantastic job,’’ Pruitt told Sports Radio WNML . “He has experience in this league. I think he’s one of the best offensive coordinators in the country. He’s done it a bunch of different ways. …
“He has a system but one of the unique things he does, he figures out who the playmakers are on his football team and he finds ways to get them the ball.’’
Pruitt said Chaney’s experience and success in the SEC was important because the SEC is “one of the best defensive leagues in all of college football, a lot of really good defensive coaches in this league. And you’ve got to find ways to be creative.’’
Pruitt said Chaney is a “smart guy’’ who is “able to adapt. He’s really not playing checkers. He’s playing chess.’’
How was Pruitt able to lure a guy from a Georgia program that, in the last two years, has won the SEC title, played for the SEC title another year, reached the College Football Playoffs and twice had a chance to knock off mighty Alabama.
“I think it’s a testament to the history of Tennessee football,’’ Pruitt said. “Jim has had experience here. He understands the capability of this program and the direction that we’re headed. I think it just says a lot about our administration, the willingness to give us the resources to go hire the best guy in the country, and I think he’s excited about working with the guys that are on our staff.’’
Pruitt said hiring a coaching before the dead period ends Friday wasn’t as important as hiring the “right guy.’’ Pruitt said he did his “due diligence to figure out the right fit for the job.
“There are certain guys out there that you don’t have to interview, the resume speaks for itself, what they do every Saturday. And Jim is certainly a guy that fits in that category and we’re very excited to have him be a part of our staff.’’
What does Pruitt want the identity of his offense to be? Pruitt: “I think the most important thing is we score one more point than the team we play. You might have to win a game 52-51 or you might win 3-2. The most important thing is winning, so just finding a way to get it done.’’
Pruitt went some 42 days without an offensive coordinator. Pruitt said there was “no need to rush’’ and that spring ball doesn’t start until March. He also pointed out some coaches were in bowl games and some were in the NFL. Plus, the first recruiting period started Dec. 19 so he wanted to focus on finding players.
I asked Pruitt about his comment that sometimes offensive coordinators are overrated. Pruitt said he was referring to a question about how tough is it to recruit without having an offensive coordinator.
“In this business,’’ Pruitt said, “assistant coaches change and the most important thing with anybody recruiting is that you recruit to the head coach.’’