By Jimmy Hyams
A wise businessman once told me he didn’t intend to offer everyone he interviewed a job – that some of the sessions were designed to learn from the applicant.
Perhaps that’s what Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt has been doing in his search for an offensive coordinator – which has exceeded 40 days and 40 nights.
Since Tennessee last had an offensive coordinator, we’ve seen Christmas, we’ve seen New Year’s Day, we’ve seen Bevo square off with UGA. and we’ve seen a female politician call the President a bad name.
Maybe some Vol fans have called Pruitt a bad name, frustrated by the fact that Miami’s new coach, Manny Diaz, hired an offensive coordinator in about 72 hours.
Pruitt has been more deliberate – much more deliberate.
Here’s what I think has transpired.
I think Pruitt was ready to hire an offensive coordinator in mid-December after interviewing Kendal Briles, Mike Yurcich and Hugh Freeze.
I think Pruitt prodded Briles for offensive ideas but didn’t offer. Briles has since been hired as Florida State’s offensive coordinator.
I think Pruitt wanted to hire Yurcich because Yurcich did more with less for six years as Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator. But Yurcich held out for the Ohio State OC job – which he got.
I think Pruitt wanted to hire Freeze but didn’t get the endorsement of athletic director Phillip Fulmer.
I think Pruitt talked to Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, a former OC at Tennessee, in December, but didn’t make an offer.
I think Pruitt then decided to focus on recruiting and re-start the process after Jan. 1.
I think Pruitt interviewed former Maryland interim head coach Matt Canada (former OC at LSU and play-caller for Nathan Peterman at Pitt) but didn’t offer and won’t.
I think Pruitt has contacted former USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin, who famously led Tennessee to the 1998 national championship.
I think Pruitt or someone representing Tennessee has talked to Steve Sarkisian, recently fired as offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. Sarkisian and Pruitt worked together at Alabama in 2016.
I think Freddie Kitchens, Jim Bob Cooter and Jeremy Bates – all current or recent NFL coaches – are NOT in the picture.
I think Chaney is hirable. I didn’t think that in December. I think it now. But Pruitt might have to move relatively fast or Chaney might lose interest.
Chaney enjoyed his time at Tennessee (2009-12) and would probably like to retire in East Tennessee.
One long-time college coach with SEC experience told me Fulmer likes Chaney and Pruitt respects Chaney. How could you not, after what he did at Purdue with Drew Brees and at Tennessee with Tyler Bray and at Arkansas with Brandon Allen and Pitt with Nathan Peterman and Georgia with Jake Fromm.
“Chaney is the best play-caller in the SEC,’’ one source told me.
Of all the potential hirable candidates, I think Chaney has the best resume’.
Chaney would command a salary of at least $1 million a year and he has about a $500,000 buyout at Georgia. But he’d be worth it.
I think one other thing – Pruitt will hire someone within a week.