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Georgia Tech Football: Two New Hires on Offense and the Numbers Approve!

Del Alexander hired as WR Coach, Jim Chaney tapped as Offensive Analyst

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 02 UAB at Tennessee Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Georgia Tech’s on and off field coaching staffs continue to evolve as spring practice has wound down, and another wave of transfer portal activity awaits. Last week, Kerry Dixon made official his rumored departure by accepting an Assistant QB Coach job with the Baltimore Ravens. Congratulations to Coach Dixon for getting an on-field role in one of the NFL’s premier organizations.

Georgia Tech responded by hiring Del Alexander to fill the newly-vacated Wide Receiver coaching position. Alexander is a veteran coach with four previous P5 jobs, including having worked the past 5 years as the WR coach at Notre Dame. Alexander was not retained this offseason, and Chip Long moved to hire up a coach that he oversaw for 3 of those years at Notre Dame.

Alexander’s working relationship at Notre Dame appeared to grow stale, but there’s no clear lag in overall offensive performance that appeared to necessitate his dismissal. Let’s look at the numbers from a couple of perspectives. It is difficult to parse out the contributions of a wide receivers coach to overall offensive performance, but we will focus on numbers that should be correlated with the receiving group, at the least. First, we will compare the offensive performance of Notre Dame for the two years prior to Alexander’s arrival to the average performance during his tenure.

ND Offense Before and During Del Alexander’s Tenure

Time Period Mean PPA Mean Success Rate Mean Explosiveness Passing Downs Success Rate Passing Downs Explosiveness Passing Downs PPA Overall Passing Success Rate
Time Period Mean PPA Mean Success Rate Mean Explosiveness Passing Downs Success Rate Passing Downs Explosiveness Passing Downs PPA Overall Passing Success Rate
During Alexander's Teure 0.25 0.44 1.32 0.36 1.98 0.43 0.43
Before Alexander's Tenure 0.25 0.47 1.28 0.4 1.93 0.5 0.45

As you can see, Notre Dame hasn’t changed a whole lot, although there has been a decline in performance on passing downs (2nd and 8, 3rd and 5 or longer). Slight upticks in overall and passing down explosiveness are a good reflection on the receivers coach; otherwise, the offense shows very marginal change. This has been a solid offensive football team for a while now.

What about a possible downturn towards the end of Alexander’s time?

ND Offensive Performance During Alexander’s Tenure

Season PPA Success Rate Explosiveness Passing Downs Success Rate Passing Downs Explosiveness Passing Downs PPA Passing Success Rate
Season PPA Success Rate Explosiveness Passing Downs Success Rate Passing Downs Explosiveness Passing Downs PPA Passing Success Rate
2017 0.26 0.43 1.42 0.36 2.12 0.45 0.34
2018 0.22 0.45 1.28 0.36 1.9 0.38 0.47
2019 0.25 0.46 1.27 0.4 1.78 0.47 0.45
2020 0.25 0.45 1.25 0.34 1.99 0.42 0.46
2021 0.26 0.43 1.37 0.34 2.09 0.43 0.45

Not much evidence points in that direction. Notre Dame has been remarkably consistent on offense. After a 2019 lull in explosiveness, those numbers surged back up this past season. There’s no clear numerical reason for Alexander to have been let go this past season, and his overall tenure correlates with solid Notre Dame offensive output. This has been an offense with a clearly superior passing game to GT over this time period. We have reason to believe that this hire will bring a meaningful improvement in the on-field coaching elements for GT’s Wide Receiver corps.

The second hire of the week is a new Offensive Analyst position that will be occupied by Jim Chaney. The veteran offensive coordinator spent a year as an analyst with the New Orleans Saints before deciding to come to the Flats and work with his former QB Coach Chris Weinke. Chaney has a coaching career that has spanned more than 35 years and has most recently been the offensive coordinator for Arkansas, Pittsburgh, UGA, and Tennessee.

Let’s take a look at the impact he had at each of these stops (combining the two UT tenures) by comparing the 3 years prior to his arrival to the performance while he was OC:

Offensive Comparison for Jim Chaney’s Tenures

School Net PPA Net Success Rate Net Run Stuff Rate Net Passing Success Rate
School Net PPA Net Success Rate Net Run Stuff Rate Net Passing Success Rate
Arkansas 0.048 0.001 -0.024 -0.043
Georgia 0.023 0 0.01 -0.032
Pittsburgh 0.026 -0.005 -0.021 -0.03
Tennessee 0.078 0.021 -0.007 0.014

The most striking feature of this comparison is that Chaney oversaw improvements in PPA/play at each of his last four schools. As a reminder, PPA is an expected points metric developed by www.collegefootballdata.com that gives us a very predictive measure of a team’s overall ability. The improvement of nearly 0.08 PPA/play at Tennessee is a full standard deviation, which is the kind of jump that GT absolutely has to make in 2022. Beyond that, the consistency in PPA improvement bodes well for the kind of impact we should expect from Chaney on GT’s offensive efficiency. The other numbers are less exciting, as they tell a more mixed story, but PPA is by far the most predictive of these four measures, and it’s good to see GT adding another offensive mind with this track record of improvement.

Questions remain on the personnel side, and the staff is clearly immersed in bringing in more bodies through the portal. On the coaching side, these hires look like wins.