Every Monday, The SEC Blog will feature an assistant coach in the SEC. This week, we take a look at Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.
It's a big season in Knoxville. While all of the pressure falls on head coach Derek Dooley, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney may be the key to whether or not the Vols are successful in 2011, or if the entire coaching staff is looking for work this winter.
Chaney doesn't have the name recognition as other high-profile assistant coaches in the SEC, and that has a lot to do with the fact that his Volunteers have finished ninth in the SEC in total offense in each of his last two seasons as offensive coordinator.
Chaney is one of two coaches who remained in Knoxville after former head coach Lane Kiffin departed for greener pastures at USC. While Kiffin was a lighting rod for media attention, the impact of the Kiffin/Chaney duo wasn't what Vols fans hoped for. They finished the season with the No. 6 offense in the SEC.
Not exactly setting the world on fire.
Tennessee's offense gets unfairly ridiculed. While scheme had a little bit to do with Tennessee's problems last season, the fact that quarterback Tyler Bray and wide receiver Justin Hunter each missed significant time due to injury played much more of a role in the Vols' offensive woes.
Bray assumed that starters role late in 2010, and then broke his thumb after hitting his helmet on a follow-through midway through the 2011 season. The thumb injury caused Bray to miss five games in the middle of the season.
Hunter had 17 catches for 314 yards and two touchdowns last season before tearing his ACL in Week 3 vs. Florida.
Typically, when you lose your starting quarterback and best offensive weapon for the majority of the season, you struggle.
Chaney has proven that he has what it takes to be successful as a coordinator in college football. From 1997-2005, he was the offensive coordinator of the Purdue Boilermakers. During his time in West Lafayette, his offense finished in the top 10 in the nation in total offense six times.
Chaney's success in 2011 hinges on whether or not the Vols' offensive line can help out the running game. The Vols finished last in the SEC in rushing in 2011, with an average of just over 90 yards per game. Marlin Lane, Rajion Neal and Devrin Young give him plenty of options in the backfield.
If the Vols can find a stable running game and stay healthy, Chaney can find success on Rocky Top. With Dooley on the hot seat, though, there's very little margin for error.