Tennessee officially announced the hiring of former Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney on Wednesday morning, leaving Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart with vacancies at both of his coordinator positions.
Mel Tucker vacated the defensive coordinator position last month to become the head coach at Colorado.
Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt, who recently said “offensive coordinators are sometimes overrated,” obviously doesn’t feel that way about Chaney.
“What most impresses me about Jim is his knowledge of the game and also the way he has adapted his offenses to his players’ strengths,” said Pruitt, a former Georgia defensive coordinator under Mark Richt.
“He’s had years where he has guided one of the nation’s top passing offenses and years where his offenses have been near the top in rushing,” Pruitt said. “He could coach every position on offense and is a true teacher of the game.”
Smart moved Chaney to the tight ends room while allowing him to maintain play-calling duties following the 2017 season, promoting James Coley to quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator.
The University of Tennessee has released a memorandum of understanding that reflects Chaney has a three-year, $4.8 million deal that runs through Jan. 31, 2022. Chaney will make $1.5 million in 2019 with an escalator raise of $100,000 the next two seasons.
The contract includes a $35,000 “moving allowance” as well as up to $500,000 toward Chaney’s buyout as it applies.
Chaney was making $950,000 annually at UGA.
Georgia opted not to match the offer for Chaney after Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer raised the stakes.
The Bulldogs are, however, expected to give offensive line coach Sam Pittman a sizable raise to remain in Athens.
Chaney had the difficult task in Georgia of calling plays and helping to manage two quarterbacks with starter Jake Fromm and backup freshman Justin Fields.
Chaney said before the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans that he felt he “did right” where Fields was concerned, but Fields announced last week he was transferring to Ohio State.
“It’s been tough, there’s no question about that,” Chaney said. “It’s challenging any time you have good, quality depth regardless of what position it is, you’re trying to find a way to get good players on the field.
“When you have both at the quarterback spot, you’re trying to utilize their skills the best you can to help your team win a football bowl and football games.”
The Bulldogs are losing a big piece of the tight ends room with Chaney’s departure.
In addition to junior tight end Isaac Nauta turning pro, freshman Luke Ford — a Chaney recruit — announced he was transferring back to Illinois last week.
Georgia finished 18th in the nation in total offense this season, but Chaney was visibly frustrated with the Bulldogs’ Sugar Bowl performance.
Georgia produced a season-low 284 yards in the 28-21 loss to Texas.
Smart said the Bulldogs were outplayed and outcoached, and his players agreed.
“They showed us what that game plan was in the first couple drives,” quarterback Jake Fromm said, “but we just couldn’t make adjustments quick enough really to capitalize on that.”
Chaney had a great deal of success the past three seasons, however, with Georgia leading the SEC in rushing in 2017 (258.4) and 2018 (238.79) The Bulldogs ranked second in the SEC in scoring this season (37.9) and were 18th in the nation in total offense (464.4).
“Jim has proven to be a great mentor for young men,” Pruitt said. “I’m excited to have him here at Tennessee.”