Tennessee pays big to bring offensive coordinator Jim Chaney back to Knoxville

Chaney leaves OC post at Georgia

Jim Chaney, shown taking questions last month during a news conference before the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, worked as Georgia's offensive coordinator the past three seasons. Now he's coming back to the same position at Tennessee, where he worked from 2009 to 2012.

KNOXVILLE - Tennessee formally announced the addition of offensive coordinator Jim Chaney on Wednesday.

Chaney replaces Tyson Helton, who left after this past season to become the head coach at Western Kentucky.

Chaney, who coached with the Volunteers from 2009 to 2012, spent the past three seasons at Georgia in the same capacity. Since leaving Knoxville after the 2012 season, he made stops at Arkansas (2013-14) and Pittsburgh (2015) before settling in at Athens under Kirby Smart.

Tennessee had to pay to get him: According to a memorandum of understanding released Wednesday afternoon, Chaney signed a three-year deal worth $4.8 million, making him one of the highest-paid offensive coordinators in college football in 2019. He is scheduled to make $1.5 million in 2019, $1.6 million in 2020 and $1.7 in 2021. Tennessee is also responsible for Chaney's $500,000 buyout at Georgia.

Chaney engineered a Georgia offense that each of the past two seasons featured a passer with more than 2,500 passing yards and two 1,000-yard rushers. The Bulldogs won the Southeastern Conference's East Division each of the past two seasons and lost in the College Football Playoff national championship game after the 2017 season.

"I'm thrilled to announce Jim Chaney as our offensive coordinator," Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said in a news release. "Jim couldn't be a better fit for our program at the University of Tennessee. His track record of success guiding offenses speaks for itself from his time at Purdue with Drew Brees to his time in the NFL and his success in the SEC at Georgia, Arkansas, and, of course, previously with the Vols.

"What most impresses me about Jim is his knowledge of the game and also the way he has adapted his offenses to his players' strengths. He's had years where he has guided one of the nation's top passing offenses and years where his offenses have been near the top in rushing. He could coach every position on offense and is a true teacher of the game.

"Jim has proven to be a great mentor for young men, and I'm excited to have him here at Tennessee."

The Bulldogs finished 11-3 this past season, averaging 464.9 yards and 37.9 points per game. In each of the past two seasons, Georgia averaged at least 200 yards rushing and 175 passing.

Chaney's new offense at Tennessee is expected to return all 11 starters from last season, but the Vols ranked at or near the bottom of both the SEC and the Football Bowl Subdivision in points (22.8) and yards (325.5) per game in 2018. Those numbers were up slightly from averages of 19.8 and 291.1, respectively, in 2017.

In 50 games calling plays for Tennessee, Chaney's offenses averaged 28.2 points and 388.3 yards per game, including a final season in 2012 in which the Vols averaged 475.9 yards and 36.2 points per game.

His offenses didn't run the ball well during his first stint in Knoxville (129.4 yards per game), but his offenses since included a lot more balance, with at least one 1,000-yard rusher each of the past five seasons and two of them his final two seasons at Georgia.

"We were very fortunate to have Jim join our staff when I came to Georgia in 2016," Smart said in a released statement. "He has been an integral part of our team over these past three years and we are grateful for his contributions to the Bulldogs during that time. I'm sure this represents a new challenge that will be exciting for Jim and his family and we wish him all the best."

Felton leaves

Shelton Felton, a quality control assistant for the Vols in 2018, has accepted the position of inside linebackers coach at the University of Akron.

Felton worked with new Akron head coach Tom Arth at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2017 before moving to Knoxville in August. Arth was hired by the Zips last month after leading the Mocs the past two seasons.

Pruitt thought highly enough of Felton that he was put on the road to recruit in December after Helton left for Western Kentucky.

"We put Shelton Felton on the road," Pruitt said on the first day of the early signing period last month. "Shelton's a guy that was a high school coach in the state of Georgia, has a lot of connections there and he's done it before. He came to us from UTC, so he's got experience, so we just felt like that was a really good fit."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3 or at Facebook.com/VolsUpdate.