Arkansas’ Brett Bielema hired Tennessee’s Jim Chaney today (link here). As we reported last week, Chaney was a candidate for NC State’s Offensive Coordinator position.
Bret Bielema is coming to Arkansas without any prior experience in the conference. That fact alone won’t hold him back; guys like Nick Saban, Les Miles, and Urban Meyer came in and excelled without “knowing the SEC”. They did, however, have coordinators with SEC experience that could help them get the lay of the land and build relationships with high schools. Saban hired Jimbo Fisher, who had spent most of the ’90s at Auburn, as his offensive coordinator. Miles retained Fisher on his staff. Meyer retained Charlie Strong from Ron Zook’s staff.
For Bielema, his guy is going to be former Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.
Chaney and Bielema have coached against each other before. The former was offensive coordinator at Purdue from 1997-2005. Bielema faced off against him as a linebackers coach at Iowa in 1997, 1998, and 2001 and as defensive coordinator at Wisconsin in 2004 and 2005. The boss got the better of his new assistant in those last two games, winning them 23-21 and 34-17, respectively.
This past season, Chaney lead Tennessee to being the fourth-ranked offense in the conference despite not getting any help from the defense whatsoever. He’ll need to find a way to put together a better ground attack than he did in Knoxville, though, given Bielema’s power running sensibilities. UT was sixth in conference play in rushing, the best such rank under his watch. In the previous two seasons, the Vols didn’t manage to average even 100 yards in SEC games. A lot of that had to do with the personnel on hand and playing from behind a lot, but that’s still pretty bad.
Despite that much, Chaney is still a fantastic hire. As a part of Joe Tiller’s Purdue staff, he was party to the creation of the modern spread passing attack, and he is a proven commodity in this league. He’s a bright guy who should be able to put something good together in Fayetteville.
The point of the article is pretty clear – Chaney will/can serve as a valuable “Guide” for Bielema’s transition and assimilation into the SEC.
Clearly this is the identical situation in which fellow mid-westerner, Dave Doeren, now finds himself at NC State. Doeren is stepping into a foreign territory in both a new conference a new region of the country. He would do well to follow Bielema’s example and consider a few coaches that can help him (and the rest of his new staff) understand his new world as quickly (and deeply) as possible.
We will have more commentary and opinion on this in the coming days, but allow me to start the conversation with one specific suggestion — perhaps former NC State assistant and current Georgia Tech Recruiting Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach, Andy McCollum, should be considered by Coach Doeren for a spot on his new staff?
When in Raleigh, McCollum was adored by NC State alums as well as high school coaches and recruits. Heck, he even helped recruit the likes of Mike Glennon during Glennon’s official visit despite being a defensive coach. It is no secret that Tom O’Brien/NC State’s recruiting rankings immediately starting sinking the very first year that McCollum moved back closer to his home in Atlanta. You can click here for more on McCollum’s biography that includes a relatively successful stint as a head coach at Middle Tennessee State.
McCollum served as head coach at Middle Tennessee State for seven seasons (1999-2005), helping the Blue Raider program make the transition from a struggling I-AA squad to a successful I-A program that competed against BCS opponents 24 times during his tenure. MTSU, which appears on the Tech schedule this fall, set 84 school records with McCollum at the helm. In 2000, McCollum led the Blue Raiders to a 6-5 record, their first winning record as a I-A program, including back-to-back wins over Connecticut and South Florida by a combined score of 111-19.
His 2001 MTSU squad finished 8-3, won the Sun Belt Conference championship, and ranked fifth nationally in offense. In 2005, the Blue Raider defense ranked ninth nationally. In 2002, 2004 and 2005 he brought in what were considered the top recruiting classes in the Sun Belt Conference. McCollum was named Coach of the Year by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association in 2000 and 2001.
I have to wonder if McCullom’s situation and desire to be close to home might have changed a bit over the last couple of years. Coach Paul Johnson is clearly on thin ice in Atlanta, and all good coaches are smart enough to understand the best way to ‘re-set’ their job security when the opportunities are presented. If he were to consider leaving, there would be no doubt in my mind that his well-known love of Raleigh and NC State would be a tempting next step for him.
McCollum’s popularity among Wolfpackers; his experience and familiarity with all things ACC; and his reputation as a top notch recruiter (just ask Coach D if he wants the likes of Vad Lee leaving the state of North Carolina for Georgia Tech in the future) make him a PRIME candidate that Coach Doeren could/should consider for his new staff.