Maybe the biggest recruit Kirby Smart was able to lure to Athens was Jim Chaney. The veteran offensive coordinator -- with 30 years of coaching experience -- was hired away from Pittsburgh in mid-December and immediately gave the Bulldogs some much-needed offensive recruiting momentum.
While his hiring might have come with mixed reviews from fans and media, recruits appeared to be impressed by what was considered Smart's most important hire. And it didn't take long for Georgia to feel Chaney's presence, as top-rated quarterback Jacob Eason, who had been committed to Georgia since the summer of 2014, cemented his commitment to the Dawgs with Chaney running the offense. While Eason insists he never fully wavered from his Georgia pledge, he did admit that the OC hire was important to him, and Chaney eased some of the stress he felt after the firing of long-time coach Mark Richt.
Eason visited Georgia shortly after Chaney's hire, and the first thing Georgia's new OC did was sit down with him. We aren't even sure if he stopped by his temporary hotel to throw his bags down before he got with this class' top priority.
"That just showed me that I was a priority for them, and they wanted me to be a part of their team, which made me want to be a part of their team," Eason said. "Now we're one team, and I'm excited to work under them and learn from them."
Eason said he was drawn to the fact that Chaney has a track record of playing young quarterbacks and how he had success with quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Kyle Orton at Purdue and Tyler Bray at Tennessee.There was an immediate connection with Chaney which instantly voided his previous official visits to Florida and in-state Washington.
"He's coached young, freshmen quarterbacks and succeeded," Eason said of Chaney's track record. "I look at that, and I want to be one of those guys. I'm gonna do the best I can to learn from him, and I know he's going to give me his all when he's teaching me.
"His simplicity with his offense, he'll make it easier for me to learn and go out there and play football rather than have my head swimming in a bunch of verbage."
It also didn't hurt that Chaney has extensive experience in the SEC, as well. His first stint in the league was a four-year run at Tennessee from 2009-12. The Vols ranked in the top half of the conference in total offense twice in four years. His best season came in 2012, when Bray threw for a career-high threw for 3,612 yards and 34 touchdowns. The Vols' offense ranked second in the SEC in total yards (475.9 ypg) and fourth in scoring (36.2 ppg).
During Chaney's second year at Arkansas in 2014, the Razorbacks averaged nearly 50 more yards per game (406) and more than 10 points per contest (31.9) than they did in Chaney's first year. While Arkansas' passing game wasn't exactly intimidating under Chaney, he was able to head one of the league's most potent rushing attacks, as the Hogs averaged more than 208 rushing yards per game in both seasons.
It wasn't just Eason who was excited about Chaney's hire. The Dawgs signed three wide receiver prospects and No. 1 tight end Isaac Nauta. Three of those players -- ESPN 300 receivers Riley Ridley and Tyler Simmons and Nauta -- all committed to Georgia after Chaney's hire.
All Nauta had to do was watch film of recent Mackey Award winner (nation's best tight end) Hunter Henry during his two years with Chaney at Arkansas, and he was hooked. Henry caught 65 passes for 922 yards and six touchdowns in those two seasons.
"That was a big selling point, just knowing what he does with the tight ends in the pro-style offense, incorporated with spread and power, counter, all that stuff," Nauta said
And Smart thinks having a trio of dynamic receivers to help a relatively depleted position should be a fun resource for Chaney in Year 1.
"When you look at Jim Chaney's history, he's got a history of really being able to use guys like those guys," Smart said. "It made it a good sell for us.
"He'll find ways to get the guy the ball and put him in unique situations for his body size and matchup."