The offensive coordinator job at Tennessee over the last four seasons could be described as anything but stable.
Stability could be in Knoxville in the form of 57-year-old Jim Chaney, who took over the reins in January after former offensive coordinator Tyson Helton accepted the head coaching position at Western Kentucky.
Chaney has coached for 34 years, including a stint as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Tennessee from 2009-12. He most recently held the offensive coordinator job at Georgia from 2016-18.
“My wife and I have always enjoyed Knoxville,” Chaney said. “It’s a place we could always see ourselves living for a long time. So when coach Pruitt called…it’s maybe the only job I ever would have considered leaving the spot I was at for.”
Chaney has already made his presence felt during the early stages of spring practice.
“He comes in our meeting room almost every day,” offensive lineman Nathan Niehaus said. “Not to say anything about football, just to peek his head in and say something. Just to let us know he’s there…he walks around every position group. I think he’s really invested.”
Recruiting is generally limited to players, but that same concept can be applied to coaching.
Head coach Jeremy Pruitt brought in Chaney, defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley and wide receivers coach Tee Martin to this year’s staff, along with moving several other coaches to different positions.
“Coach Pruitt did a great job of recruiting coaches that are all on the same page and all coach the same way,” junior wide receiver Josh Palmer said. “The transition has been quite easy.”
The last time Chaney was clad in Tennessee orange, many of the current Vols were not yet teenagers.
Regardless, they are confident in their head coach’s decision-making.
“I didn’t know much about coach Chaney, but we trust (that) coach Pruitt brought in the right coaches for this program,” Palmer said. “We are excited to see what coach Chaney and this offense can do in this upcoming season.”
Chaney also coached college football at Cal State Fullerton (1988-92), Purdue (1997-2005), Arkansas (2013-14) and Pitt (2015).
He coached Drew Brees, Nick Chubb, Cordarelle Patterson, Sony Michel and Alex Collins when they were in college. Chaney has coached 27 NFL Draft picks and his offenses led the SEC in fewest sacks allowed from 2012-14.
“Coach Chaney, he definitely brings a lot of knowledge and a lot of wisdom,” Niehaus said. “He’s been here before. He knows the fan base, he knows what to bring. He knows how to breed competition…these coaches have done a really good job of breeding competition between the offense and the defense. I like where it’s heading.”
Since returning to Tennessee, Chaney has made the rounds with every offensive position group.
“He’ll talk to you about personal matters, he’ll talk about how to improve your game,” Niehaus said. “He knows offense. He can go from the receivers to the quarterbacks to the o-line. Just all around, he’s a really good offensive coach.”
While Chaney’s coaching can lay the foundation for the Vols’ offense, it’s still up to the players to make the plays.
“At the end of the day, receivers have to catch, running backs have to run, receivers have to block on the perimeter,” Palmer said. “That’s the difference between a first down and a touchdown.”