Considering their history together, it was inevitable that Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney would receive a question about offensive line coach Sam Pittman.
So it was pretty easy for Chaney to give his buddy a hard time when given the opportunity.
“I tried to convince him to stay (at Arkansas),” Chaney joked. “I didn’t want him around here. He’s a pain in the butt.”
Of course, that couldn’t be any further from the truth, considering how successful the duo has been in the three seasons the two coaches previously worked together at Tennessee in 2012 and Arkansas from 2013-14.
During that span, the Chaney-Pittman teams gave up a total of only 30 sacks. In 2012 at Tennessee, quarterback Tyler Bray, who hadn’t thrown for 2,000 yards in either of his previous two seasons, had a career year with 3,612 yards and 34 touchdowns.
Without the personnel to throw the ball often at Arkansas in 2013 and 2014, Chaney and Pittman’s offenses relied on the ground game and got Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins at least 900 yards apiece in both seasons.
“They’re bringing in Coach Chaney, and he’s an offensive guru,” outside linebacker Chuks Amaechi said. “Bringing in somebody like Coach Pittman who’s coaching up these O-lineman — it’s kind of hard to beat them in one-on-ones now because Coach Pittman is teaching them techniques that I’ve never seen before. It used to be easier to beat them off the edge, but now it’s getting hard.”
In 2015, Chaney left Arkansas to be the offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh, marking a year of separation for the tandem. Given the opportunity to reunite made sense for both Chaney and Pittman, given it would be at another SEC program that resides in one of the most fertile recruiting locales in the country.
Chaney said the two have been able to work well together because they have like-minded personalities.
“I don’t think that we take life real seriously,” Chaney said. “I think we understand where football fits in the big picture. We’re trying to help these young men grow up. We want to win football games and do the best we can, but we also laugh at ourselves a little bit. I think his personality and my personality blend really well. We understand and we desire the same things in life. We want to win football games and that keeps a smile on our face.”
Chaney has developed a reputation for adjusting to a multitude of personnel sets over time. In the 1990s, when he coached under Joe Tiller at Purdue, Chaney helped run a pass-heavy attack that ran at a fast tempo. But the biggest issue he had with the Boilermakers was an inability to win close games.
In the NFL with the St. Louis Rams, Chaney learned how to incorporate a more balanced attack and use the clock to his advantage. At Tennessee, Arkansas and Pittsburgh, he was able to do a little bit of everything on offense based on the skill set of his players.
“You guys are going to find this hard to believe, but I’ll draw the analogy of a pie, because I like pie,” Chaney said. “You just got so many pieces of pie. What do you want to get good at? … So I’ve got to find time to educate myself on the new stuff going on out there in the spread offense world a little bit, because I do think there’s a lot of good going on. There’s a tremendous amount of creative people out there running offenses. But I do believe at the end of the day to have a successful offense, you have got to be very physical in this conference.”
Being able to land the Chaney-Pittman combo was big for head coach Kirby Smart. Knowing his offensive lines would protect the quarterback and be able to run the ball out of a flexible playbook has allowed the head coach with a defensive background to place a lot of trust on the other side of the ball.
“Both those things attracted me to them,” Smart said. “They’ve got good, proven credentials with what they’ve done. That was important not only in recruiting but to our current roster, and they’ve been a great pair.”