Wednesday night, the University of Arkansas announced the hire of former Tennessee and Purdue offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, and late Thursday morning Chaney discussed why he took the job and what he can bring to the table for Bret Bielema's Razorbacks.
Chaney is also believed to have been the No. 1 candidate for the offensive coordinator position at Missouri. Chaney was born in Holden (Mo.) and played defensive tackle at Central Missouri. Arkansas landing him over his home state school is a coup.
"I love this conference. I think the Southeastern Conference is by far the most competitive league, and as a competitive football coach I was going to try to do everything I possibly could to remain in this setting," Chaney said. "I had some friends kind of reach out to coach [Bielema] to let him know that I have a lot of interest. We made contact through the phone and had a chance to sit down and visit a little bit and talk about philosophy and see what direction he wanted to go and what I wanted to do with my career. Seemed to work out pretty good. We have a lot of things we share in common, and I enjoyed those conversations. When he offered me the opportunity to join the staff, I quickly jumped at it."
Chaney has been coordinating offenses on the major college football level since 1997, save a three-year stint as a position coach with the St. Louis Rams of the National Football League. His offense has developed into more of a pro-style attack with both spread and power run-game elements over the years.
"When I first started in coaching, I started with a pro-style offense and then moved to the spread," he said. "Couldn't get anything done in the spread at Cal State Fullerton, so we tried the triple option. That didn't work much. Went to Wyoming, went back to the spread. Moved from Wyoming into Purdue where we had very a very fine quarterbacks. They were our best football players, and that enabled us to be successful.
"I like parts of the spread offense. I think it's a quarterback-friendly situation," he said. "I really believes at times you have to be physical, and that's where a flip in my philosophy changed to more of a balanced attack."
Bielema vs. Chaney
Bielema and Chaney faced off twice before as coordinators. In 2004, Wisconsin and the Bielema defense beat Purdue and the Chaney offense 20-17 at Purdue to give them their first loss (5-1). The following year, Purdue fell again 31-20, despite racking up 428 yards of total offense compared to just 280 for Wisconsin. Purdue QB Curtis Painter tossed three interceptions in that one as the Boilermakers turned the ball over five times. Chaney was also the OC at Purdue when Bielema was coaching linebackers at Iowa.
"I recall some of the Iowa teams that I played when I was at Purdue, being tough, defenses that you couldn't move very much," Chaney said. "They were difficult to do. They were very, very sound, well-coached. Their identity was very clear. They were hard to move the ball on."
Strength as a recruiter
He has coached several positions throughout his career and has also served time as a recruiting coordinator when he was at Wyoming.
"I like the recruiting of the quarterback position," the new Razorback offensive coordinator said. "So critical, and I feel like one of the strengths I might bring to the table is the evaluation process of quarterbacks. I feel like I'm very diligent with that and very critical and very picky of that. Picking that good quarterback enables you to become that good quarterbacks coach.
"As far as areas, I've been around the south everywhere. At Tennessee I was doing in-home visits throughout the land. When I was at Purdue, I recruited Dallas-Fort Worth for three or four years. I'm comfortable in the south about anywhere he wants to put me. My home state is Missouri. Obviously I know my way around there up there, too."
Coached Drew Brees
One of the players Purdue signed out of Texas when Chaney was on staff is quarterback Drew Brees, a former Maxwell Award winner and All-American who went on to become a Super Bowl MVP and is regarded as one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks to this day. Though he was the coordinator, Chaney refuses to take much credit for Brees, who was overlooked as a recruit by Texas schools.
"The years I was at Purdue, I had a gentleman named Greg Olsen with me, who was so fantastic at quarterback coach. Knew a lot more than I did. He did all the quarterbacks while I coordinated from the tight end position. I've coordinated from several different positions," he said. "As I've moved to this stage in my career and in the Southeastern Conference, I feel like it's the best thing to do. It worked for us this past year when I went back and took Tyler Bray over as quarterback coach. I think Tyler had a pretty solid year for us. I'm enjoying doing that again, and I like it."
Chaney talks personnel
Will current Razorback quarterbacks Brandon Allen or Brandon Mitchell be the next big-time quarterback under Chaney? That remains to be seen, but Chaney is impressed with what little he has seen out of Arkansas' offensive personnel.
"When the recruiting goes dead [Dec. 17], that's when I'm planning on getting a good chance to spend a lot of time watching film with coach and getting a good handle on personnel," Chaney said. "I know there's some good football players. The Swanson kid, the young Allen kid, Mitchell - those quarterbacks have been on the field and have played. Jonathan Williams, the running back. You hope to get the Small kid back. There's talent there. There's talent everywhere in this conference. We've just got to get it together and mold it."
Before the UA officially announced the hire of former Tennessee offensive line coach Sam Pittman, Multiple sources said to expect it on Wednesday. Chaney commented on Pittman less than two hours before the hire was made official.
"I don't have any idea where we're headed with the staff at this time," Chaney said. "I know Sam's a wonderful football coach. If coach decides to go that direction and hire Sam, I think that's wonderful. But he and I haven't got that far. We'll see how that plays out. What takes place with the staff, that's the coaches decision, and he asks for my input I'll gladly give it to him."
Pittman named UA offensive line coach
UA Media Relations
Sam Pittman, who has 27 years of experience with 19 coaching offensive line, has been named Arkansas' offensive line coach, head coach Bret Bielema announced Thursday.
"Sam Pittman has earned a reputation as one of the finest offensive line coaches and one of the most relentless recruiters in the nation," said Bielema. "His time with Jim Chaney is another bonus as we move forward with the development of our offensive philosophy. He has been a part of great programs where he played a major role in assembling highly ranked recruiting classes. He has demonstrated the ability to help linemen make remarkable improvement in a short amount of time. He also is able to relate to his players and simplify the game for them, which will benefit our aggressive offensive attack."
Pittman oversaw the offensive line for offensive coordinator Jim Chaney last season at Tennessee, when the Volunteers led the SEC and ranked fourth in the NCAA in fewest sacks allowed per game, following five seasons coaching the offensive line at North Carolina.
In 2012, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray passed for 3,619 yards and 34 touchdowns. His touchdowns were the seventh-most in a season in SEC history, and his passing yards ranked 11th in conference history. Bray also broke the Tennessee single-game record with 530 yards passing, a record previously held by Peyton Manning and the second-highest single-game total in SEC history.
Also during the 2012 season, wide receiver Justin Hunter ranked third in the SEC with 1,083 receiving yards and was fourth in the conference with an average of 6.1 receptions per game. His 73 catches ranked as the second-highest single-season total in UT history, and his receiving yards ranked third on the school's single-season list. As a team, Tennessee led the SEC and was fourth in the NCAA allowing an average of 0.67 sacks per game. The Vols also ranked 16th in the country in passing offense, 19th in total offense, 23rd in scoring offense and 33rd in passing efficiency.
The 2011 North Carolina team, with Pittman having been promoted to associate head coach, averaged 6.3 yards per play in the regular season, the second-best mark in the ACC. The UNC offensive line helped running back Giovani Bernard to 101.8 yards per game, a mark that led all NCAA freshmen and included seven 100-yard rushing games. Bernard's 14 rushing touchdowns ranked second nationally among freshmen.
Additionally, sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner led the Atlantic Coast Conference in passing efficiency, a category in which UNC led the conference as a team as well. The Tar Heels ranked fifth in the ACC in total offense at 396.6 while earning a berth in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl.
Named one of the nation's top 25 recruiters by ESPN.com, Pittman twice signed the No. 2-rated offensive tackle in the country with Alex Hurst in 2010 and Kiaro Holt in 2011. Hurst, who started all 12 games at left tackle for UNC as a sophomore during the 2011 season, joined teammate and left guard Jonathan Cooper as the first Tar Heel tandem to earn All-ACC lineman honors since 1993.
Pittman also developed offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds, who earned second team All-ACC honors in 2008 and was selected in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons.
Pittman joined the Tar Heels after four seasons as the offensive line coach at Northern Illinois from 2003-06, including three seasons as assistant head coach from 2004-06. During that time frame, the Huskies produced a pair of standout rushers in Garrett Wolfe and Michael Turner.
Wolfe led the nation in rushing with 1,928 yards in 2006, while Turner, who has earned two Pro Bowl selections with the Atlanta Falcons and has led the NFC in rushing in 2010 and 2011, finished second in the nation as a senior at Northern Illinois in 2003 with 1,648 yards.
Pittman's first stint as offensive line coach for Northern Illinois was for two years, from 1994-95. Pittman also previously coached the offensive linemen at Kansas, Missouri, Western Michigan and Oklahoma (1997-98). He also coached offensive tackles and tight ends at Cincinnati.
Before coaching at NIU, Pittman spent two seasons as the head coach at Hutchinson Community College from 1992-93 after serving as the school's offensive line coach in 1991. He was a head coach in the high school ranks at Trenton High School in Missouri from 1989-90 and at Princeton High School, also in Missouri from 1987-88. He began his coaching career with a two-year stint as a student assistant at Pittsburg State from 1984-85, followed by one season as an assistant coach at Beggs High School in Oklahoma.
Pittman played defensive end at Pittsburg State, where he was a first-team NAIA All-American and twice earned all-conference recognition. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1986 and was inducted into the PSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998. He is married to the former Jamie Conrad.
Sam Pittman Coaching History
Dec. 2012 Arkansas (Offensive Line)
2012 Tennessee (Offensive Line)
2011 North Carolina (Associate Head Coach/Offensive Line)
2007-10 North Carolina (Offensive Line)
2004-06 Northern Illinois (Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line)
2003 Northern Illinois (Offensive Line)
2001 Kansas (Offensive Line)
2000 Missouri (Offensive Line)
1999 Western Michigan (Offensive Line)
1997-98 Oklahoma (Offensive Line)
1996 Cincinnati (Offensive Tackles/Tight Ends)
1994-95 Northern Illinois (Offensive Line)
1992-93 Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College (Head Coach)
1991 Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College (Offensive Line)
1989-90 Trenton (Mo.) High School (Head Coach)
1987-88 Princeton (Mo.) High School (Head Coach)
1986 Beggs (Okla.) High School (Assistant Coach)
1984-85 Pittsburg State (Student Coach)
Birthdate: Nov. 28, 1961
Home Town: El Reno, Okla.
Family: Wife, Jamie
Bowl Games: Independence Bowl, 2011; Music City Bowl, 2010; Meineke Car Care Bowl, 2009; Meineke Car Care Bowl, 2008; Poinsettia Bowl, 2006; Silicon Valley Classic, 2004