Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm said that Jim Chaney spoke highly of the time he spent under Jim Chaney. Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano already shares those sentiments.
Back in January,Chaney, who had served as Georgia’s offensive coordinator since 2016, left Kirby Smart’s staff to return to Knoxville to serve in the same capacity. Chaney had previously been an offensive coordinator on Derek Dooley’s Tennessee staff from 2010-2012.
At SEC Media Days on Tuesday, Smart talked about the impact Chaney had on them during his stint in Athens, while Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt and Guarantano discussed Chaney’s early impact on an offense that struggled to produce for much of the 2018 season.
Georgia, on the other hand, did not. In fact, the Bulldogs offense played a big role in both Georgia’s SEC Championship and playoff run in 2017 as well as their 11-win, Sugar Bowl-appearing campaign last season.
According to Smart, Chaney’s play-calling and development of players on that side of the ball were a big reason for Georgia’s success the last two years.
“Jim (Chaney) did a tremendous job for us,” Smart said. “I’ve got a great relationship with him. He helped us develop to where we are. I know he’s going to one of our rivals, and we understand and respect that.”
To many, Tennessee now having Chaney’s services could be an advantage when the Vols and Bulldogs meet on Oct. 5 at Neyland Stadium. But for Smart, it’s the players on the field that will be the difference.
“The fact that he knows our personnel, I think that the game of football boils down to players making plays,” Smart said. “There’s not going to be anything that Jim Chaney or myself can do out there on that field that our players can’t control.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Georgia safety J.R. Reed talked about what he expects now that he has to play against Chaney’s offenses in a live game instead of at practice.
“Whatever Coach Chaney brings to the table, I know he knows our players,” Reed said. “I think it should be pretty difficult because he knows us in and out. I was on the scout team when I first got (to Georgia), so he knows me pretty well.”
After just one season at Tennessee, Pruitt was faced with the task of searching for a replacement at offensive coordinator after Tyson Helton took the head coaching job at Western Kentucky.
At the end of a month-long search, Pruitt had settled on Chaney. It was Georgia’s success on offense, as well as his plethora of experience in the SEC that made Chaney such an enticing hire for Pruitt.
“I think if you look at Jim’s time in Georgia, you can look at his time at Tennessee, and really wherever he’s been, he’s had a lot of success,” Pruitt said. “I think it’s important in this league to know who you’re going against.
“There’s some really good offensive minds in this league, and it helps to have experience against him. I couldn’t think of nobody else I’d rather hire than Jim Chaney.”
In the end, after years of facing each other around the conference, Pruitt’s decision came down to whether or not he wanted to keep playing against Chaney’s schemes, or playing with them.
“Jim (Chaney) is a guy that we coached against when I was an assistant at Alabama when he was at Tennessee, and he gave us a lot of problems,” Pruitt said. “Obviously when he went to Georgia, going against him, you know when the guys that you go against in this league give you problems, who don’t and vice versa. He is one of the best in the country.”
While Pruitt’s optimism was evident on the stage, no one at Tennessee may be more excited to have Chaney than Guarantano, who arrived in Knoxville in 2016 as a 4-star prospect from New Jersey, but has since struggled to find consistency at the position in his two seasons as a starting quarterback.
The relationship that Guarantano and Chaney started building in the spring will go a long way in deciding whether or not the Vols are making major strides in 2019. So far, their interactions have allowed Guarantano to understand the game more than he did before.
“We look at ball, we talk ball,” Guarantano said of his relationship with Chaney. “I enjoy the time I spend with him because it enables me in the mental part of the game, being able to understand what defenses do.”