KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)-- Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said he is enjoying being back on Rocky Top as the Tennessee football program hit the halfway point of spring practice following Friday’s helmet and shorts session at Haslam Field.
The Vols will hold practice No. 9 on Saturday – the first scrimmage of the spring.
Chaney spent four years at Tennessee as the OC and quarterbacks coach from 2009 to 2012. Head coach Jeremy Pruitt hired Chaney in January to command the offense for the second time at UT.
“My job as an assistant coach is to do whatever fits into (Coach Pruitt’s) philosophy,” Chaney said. “What has been fun here is I have been able to see a lot of people here that are near and dear to my heart. In a lot of ways, you guys know my role. This is my honeymoon period right now before fall. There will be a call that I make on third and one where I make a call and you all are going to say, ‘what in the heck was that’ as will my wife. It has been fun to get reacquainted with some friends. I’m really enjoying it. Coach Pruitt has been a blast to work with. The staff he has put together on my side of the ball I could not ask for anything better. They are fantastic people and great coaches. I’m very fortunate.”
Chaney’s offenses have found success at every stop he’s had. During his first stint at UT, the Vols had 12 offensive players drafted and averaged 475.9 yards per game in 2012 – the second-best mark in school history.
He coached at Arkansas (2013-14), Pitt (2015) and Georgia (2016-18) in recent years, helping the Bulldogs win the SEC and advance to the College Football Playoff Championship with a true freshman quarterback in 2017.
Chaney has won with different offenses over his career, too. Georgia led the SEC in rushing in 2017 and 2018, while his Tennessee team in 2012 had a 3,600-yard passer and his Purdue offenses in the 1990s and early 2000s aired it out with quarterbacks Drew Brees and Kyle Orton.
The 34-year coaching veteran said he has learned that it’s all about the players when it comes to adapting as a coordinator to different teams.
“When you get older, you know it is all about the players,” Chaney said. “When you are young, you say it is all about the players. I remember when I was younger I was fortunate enough to have Drew (Brees). You say it is about the players, but down deep at 31 or 32, you thought you had all of the answers. Then he left, I wasn’t near as smart. It takes a few times to realize it is truly all about the players. They are the ones that are going to cross the lines and represent you. When you get older, hopefully you get a little wiser with age. You try to put some plays together to try and get that group to execute and score points to win games. My belief is stronger now than it’s ever been that its about the players. You just try to get the 11 best out and that dictates the style of play.”
Chaney Praises Senior Wide Receivers
Through eight practices, Chaney is pleased with how his players are picking up a new offense and is happy with the unit’s “physicality.” He praised the wide receivers as being the most impressive group halfway through the spring session.
“I think when you look at the strengths of the team right now; I would argue the experience at the wide receiver corps,” Chaney said. “Those kids are making plays and understand things, I will add a new concept and they have seen it before. We are not re-inventing the wheel here. I think that Jauan (Jennings), Marquez Callaway, Brandon Johnson and Josh Palmer are all playing good ball. (Jordan) Murphy has been making some good plays at slot."
The Tennessee wide receivers feature a trio of rising seniors in Callaway, Jennings and Johnson, while Palmer and Murphy are experienced rising juniors.
Callaway has 62 receptions for 1,011 yards and seven touchdowns in his career to go along with two punt return scores. He is expected to be a third-year starter.
Jennings is entering his fifth-year. He has 87 receptions for 1,184 yards and 10 touchdowns – none more memorable than his game-winning hail mary score at Georgia in 2016.
An Easy Decision to Return to Knoxville
Chaney was very successful at Georgia, but he couldn’t say no to a return to Knoxville and Pruitt’s pitch.
“Coach Pruitt called me and my wife and I have always enjoyed Knoxville,” Chaney said. “It is a place that we can see ourselves living for a long time. When Coach Pruitt called, and you never know, but 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.”