Jim Chaney had good things to say about his time with Georgia coach Kirby Smart, but he said returning to Knoxville was “an easy decision.”
Chaney, who signed a three-year contract worth $1.6 million annually in January, said Tennessee was one of the few places that could take him from Athens.
“We had a wonderful three years at the University of Georgia,” Chaney said on Friday in Knoxville. “Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt called me and my wife and I have always enjoyed Knoxville. It is a place that we can see ourselves living for a long time … it is one of the few jobs that I ever would have considered leaving the spot I had for.
“After talking to him and getting to know him, it was an easy decision to come back to the place that I have always enjoyed coaching at and living.”
Chaney, who has a daughter who is a senior at UT, helped Georgia to great success during his three years at UGA.
The Bulldogs came within one defensive breakdown of winning the 2017 national championship, and last season’s team had Alabama on the ropes before Jalen Hurts came off the bench and rallied the Tide to victory.
Smart, who was paying Chaney $950,000 a year to run the offense, had nothing but good things to say about him and Mel Tucker, who vacated the defensive coordinator post to become Colorado’s head coach.
“I’d say congratulations to Mel and Jim, but also thank them for what they helped us build thus far,” Smart said earlier this month. “They were both tremendous assets, they were really great guys, great team players and bought into the whole organization.”
Smart has promoted quarterbacks coach James Coley into the offensive coordinator position. Coley worked closely with Chaney last season, sitting in the coaches’ box with him each game.
Chaney, who coached under Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley his first go-round at Tennessee (23-27 from 2009-12), indicated his time coaching at Arkansas, Pitt and Georgia changed his approach.
“Comparing me to then, I understand the importance of physicality more now,” Chaney said. “Playing physical football gives you the opportunity to be successful.”
Smart insists on physical football at Georgia.
“Our core belief that we always have which is balance, being powerful, being able to run the ball at our will,” Smart said last August. “That’s always going to be the identity we have.”
Chaney grew philosophical when asked about learning about his offensive personnel at Tennessee, ultimately indicating he may have more control of his offense there, than he did at Georgia.
“You understand, wherever job you go, there is no perfect coach and there is no perfect team,” Chaney said. “You try to get wherever you are at and try to understand the personalities of the players and their talent level.
“Also, the philosophy of the head football coach and the way he wants to do things,” he said. “It has been interesting for me to watch the existing offense for these first eight practices and seeing who we are. In my mind, I am trying to sort out what kind of offense I think we should play ….”
Chaney didn’t flinch when asked about the familiarity between coaches and coordinators in the SEC.
“I think it helps you a lot when you know people and people know me,” Chaney said. “I have folders on certain coordinators and coach Pruitt and Kirby.
“We all know one another and we know what each other is going to do.”