At first glance the numbers for new UGA offensive coordinator Jim Chaney don’t seem too impressive.
Over the past seven seasons working as a coordinator at Pitt, Arkansas, and Tennessee, Chaney’s offenses have had an average national ranking of 71st, and Chaney has only had a unit finish higher than 60th once — in 2012 when his Tennessee offense finished 18th. However, these numbers don’t tell the full story of Chaney’s work. A deeper investigation indicates that Chaney is a coach that has been more successful than he initially appears.
This past season Chaney was the offensive coordinator at Pitt. His team was just 76th in America in total offense. Yet it’s important to note that Chaney lost running back James Conner to an MCL tear in the first game of the season. The loss of Conner was a huge blow to the Panthers because he was ranked as the no. 5 draft-eligible running back and projected as a top-100 draft pick by NFLDraftScout. Chaney should be credited for replacing Conner as well as he did. Pitt actually finished 37th in Football Outsiders’ opponent-adjusted offensive efficiency rating, which put the Panthers in the top thirty percent of offenses in all of college football.
In 2014, Chaney led Arkansas to a national ranking of 63rd in total offense. That’s not much to brag about, but that number should come with a disclaimer. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema is famous for his desire to control the pace of a game. How slow does Bielema like to play? In 2014 the Razorbacks were just 70th in the country in offensive plays per game. Yet even at that pace Chaney managed to produce 31.9 points per game, and he generated the fourth most rushing touchdowns in the SEC.
Before coming to Arkansas, Chaney was the offensive coordinator at Tennessee. In 2012 he led the Vols to some impressive numbers. Tennessee was fourth in the SEC in points per game and second in the SEC in yards per game. What makes these statistics more remarkable is that they were created by a roster that is less talented than the one Chaney will be working with at UGA. According to 247sports, the 2012 recruiting class for the Vols was ranked just 20th, the 2011 class was ranked only 14th, and the 2010 class was ranked ninth. By comparison, UGA’s average finish over the past three recruiting classes is seventh.
New UGA coach Kirby Smart should be given credit for being willing to take a deep look at Chaney, especially since much of the perception of Smart in his first year will be based on how successful his offensive coordinator turns out to be. Smart’s decision doesn’t come without risk, but it might turn out to be the right move. Even though the initial impression may suggest Chaney is a candidate that leaves something to be desired, a further examination reveals Smart has probably made a good hire.