2011 Tennessee Football: 10 Ways OC Jim Chaney Will Improve the Offense
With over 26 years of experience behind the whistle, Jim Chaney has all the tools that an offensive coordinator needs to be successful. When people talk about the spread offense he has been mentioned in the same breath as Gus Malzahn, Chip Kelly and Dan Mullen for their expertise at implementing offensive squads that drive defensive coordinators to the point of nervous breakdown. His ability to win was proven at Purdue where he consistently managed winning seasons that included regular beatdowns against Notre Dame. This season, the orange clad will expect a better return from the predominantly sophomore team that takes the field, but how will he do it?
Adding the Fullback
It's been talked about repeatedly. Will Chaney start using the FB position again? With the recruitment of Channing Fugate it became not a matter of if, but when.
At 6'1" 250lbs, sophomore Channing Fugate is nothing short of imposing. In a recent article I graded him the highest on the offense because he followed his job description to the letter. He is a powerful runner and loves to lower his shoulder against all-takers.
In his junior year high school, he rushed for over 3,059 yards...huh? He averaged 10.93 yards every time he touched the ball and managed to squeeze in 36 TDs for good measure.
With his power and running knowledge, he is exactly what you want to push those pesky LBs out of the way.
Tennis Balls for the Receivers
As ludicrous as this might sound, it's one of the best ways for receivers to work on their catching abilities. The first time I saw this, Jerry Rice was filmed during the offseason running around a tennis court for three hours doing nothing but catching balls though from a tennis gun.
After that, it seemed everybody was doing it, and it has become part of the mainstream practice regimen for many universities since then. Chaney will push WR coach Charlie Baggett to drill the receivers until their hands are yellow. For a better explanation, former Alabama standout Julio Jones gives a brief word.
Improve OL Conditioning
One of the things that was noticeable last year and even reminiscent in the spring game was the lack of conditioning from the offensive line.
They're big men, we know. And you want that size up front, but all that size won't help if you can't carry it through four quarters. Chaney noticed this, and with the help of strength and conditioning coach Ron McKeefery and OL coach Harry Hiestand, they will spend countless hours working on their running and explosion reps. The line will be visibly leaner by kickoff.
Improve Interference Without Penalties
This is actually a number of things. They aren't part of public protocol, but you can be damn sure it's coached.
The subtle tug of the jersey, the easy bump off a DB to change direction, even the famous "How did my foot get there?" trip. All jokes aside, what's really important is knowing that there is very little that you can get away with on the field that a ref won't call you for, especially since the rules seem to change each season. But, a little tug could just win the game.
After that it's back to basics, getting down-field to block, making sure every fake route is sold like gold and all the assignments are covered.
Film, Film and More Film
No this isn't the Tennessee film room but you get the idea.
Defenses dissected to the last man: It doesn't matter what position they're at they will need to spend every waking minute watching film. If I'm Chaney, I take away the PS3 and XBOX, well he won't do that but he should. Whenever there is a spare moment, the entire offense should be in there watching every game from last year, and the year before, that should factor out transfers and graduation. Prepare for each game individually, then study non-conference play. You can mark my words, every team studies the most successful teams outside their conferences to get an idea where they can add a little flavor to assignments and blocking schemes.
I know Chaney will do the same.
Remember the Fugate kid I was telling you about on slide No. 1?
This will scare the crap out of just about any LB, cause they freak out trying to decide whether or not they should bring guys from the back to cover the run or keep it close in case of the pass. Regardless, you put Channing in the back with Poole and whomever else they decide on at SB, then Bray or Simms can float passes in the end zone all day long.
Or at least that's how it's supposed to work.
The Unbalanced Flexbone
And you may be asking what's so special about this right?
Not only do you get the opportunity to use Fugate at FB to really ream those holes open for Poole, but now you get a chance to be really sneaky. You keep them guessing whether or not that TE is gonna be receiving or will he double-block off the FB?
If you're a DC, you might as well blitz, but he better hope that WR or TE is staying close to home otherwise he'll be walking in for six.
Last year, Chip Kelley's Oregon Ducks showed Chaney the light as they utilized their no-huddle spread offense in front of a packed Neyland stadium.
The irony of this is Chaney knows exactly how to run the same offense if not better. While at Purdue, Chaney mastered the art with sub-level athletes going up against Big Ten powerhouses like Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State. He might not have won every game but he fine-tuned his schemes, so it would be virtually compatible with any team. If the talent increases the natural course of events is easier penetration against the secondary.
No huddle inside Tennessee's own 35.
Keep Poole Running
Whether it's the traditional spread or flexbone style formation, Chaney will keep Poole running.
With all the variables at QB the one remaining constant is Tauren Poole. It would make no sense not use Poole as often as health allows. To be consistent Chaney should give Poole 40 to 50 touches per game. These attempts should easily guarantee him 100 yards per game. He comes back this season healthy with the full command of three competent QBs in Simms, Bray and Worley. Factor in Fugate and he could potentially have a 1,600-yard season.
Chaney will run Poole hard the first half and then bring in Rajion Neal and the new blood.
Worley Will Be Ready This Fall
By all accounts, Simms will probably back up Bray and Simms will most likely assume fourth quarter responsibilities, while Worley shows up to tick off the clock. This is what will probably happen.
Or, the wind could blow in a different direction. Nobody wants to talk about the 500-lb gorilla in the room, but somebody could get hurt. And Simms could have a meltdown under the pressure. Bray might be a better QB than we was last year, but Worley is also better than Bray was last year. Worley still has a way to go before he can learn all of the reads, but he isn't far off now.
I'm picturing Justin Worley locked in a room with QB coach Darin Hinshaw, Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter going over each play step-by-step. Then they're in the indoor practice facility for dry runs. Chaney will have them walled up with about 35 plays just in case.
He will be ready to step up.