FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas announced that offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was one of three assistants still finalizing new contracts last week.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas announced that offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was one of three assistants still finalizing new contracts last week.


But Chaney’s new deal is actually coming from another program.


Chaney has accepted the offensive coordinator position at Pittsburgh, according to multiple reports. Sports Illustrated was first to report Chaney was leaving to take a position on coach Pat Narduzzi’s staff. Pittsburgh didn’t confirm Chaney’s hire Sunday, while an Arkansas spokesperson said the Razorbacks had no comment.


Chaney — who was the highest-paid member of Bielema’s staff last season ($550,000) — becomes the second Arkansas assistant to leave the Razorbacks after linebackers coach Randy Shannon’s departure for Florida earlier this month. His move to Pittsburgh ends his two-year run in charge of a run-oriented Arkansas offense that struggled in 2013, but made some strides in 2014.


Arkansas averaged 31.9 points and 406.0 yards last season, which was an improvement from 2013 (20.7 points and 357.2 yards). Quarterback Brandon Allen also grew under Chaney’s tutelage, improving with his completion percentage (49.6 to 56.0) and passing yards (1,552 to 2,285). Allen threw 13 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in 2013, but improved to 20 and 5 in 2014.


Arkansas still had issues producing points against Southeastern Conference competition, especially in the second half of games. The Razorbacks scored seven points or less in the second half during six of their eight SEC games last season.


Chaney reflected on the regular season as Arkansas prepared for the Texas Bowl.


"As a coach you’re always dwelling on the things you want to do better," Chaney said on Dec. 10. "I’m proud of the fact I think our kids show up and play every week. They play very hard. We’ve gotten better and cut down on our mistakes we feel like. We’re a long way from where we want to be from a production standpoint, but for the most part, as a coach, if you hang your hat on them playing hard and doing what you’re asking them to do at the best of their abilities you’re comfortable with that. …


"I’m not comfortable where we need to be with production. We need to score more than we’ve been able to get done some games. We’ll continue to work on that."


The task will be reserved for Arkansas’ next offensive coordinator.


Whoever steps into the role will be in charge of an experienced group in 2015.


Allen is a two-year starter, while running back Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins each topped the 1,000-yard mark in 2014. Arkansas also has its two leading receivers back in wide receiver Keon Hatcher and tight end Hunter Henry. Four of Arkansas’ five offensive line starters also return next season.


"That’s a very, very positive thing to have two, 1,000-yard rushing backs, two of our running backs, before the game was ever played to be coming back," Bielema said earlier this month. "A very, very solid group of interior offensive linemen that return. It’s going to be a good year for the Razorbacks."


This will be the second straight offseason Bielema will have to hire a new coordinator. Defensive coordinator Chris Ash left to become the co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State last winter and was replaced by Robb Smith, who helped Arkansas finish the season ranked 10th in the NCAA in scoring and yards allowed.


Smith’s success helped him earn a contract extension and pay raise. He earned $500,000 last season, but agreed to a three-year deal that will pay him a total of $2.4 million. He’ll earn $750,000 next season, $800,000 in 2016 and $850,000 in 2017.


"We took care of every one of our assistants that I expressed an interest to do so," Bielema said last earlier this month when discussing contracts for his assistants. "And everyone of those guys is staying put. I can’t tell you what’s happening out there beyond what I know. But it should be an interesting couple of weeks."


Chaney’s departure could be just one part of an offensive staff shakeup. Offensive line coach Sam Pittman and tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. were the only members of the offensive staff to sign new agreements with the Razorbacks last week. Like Chaney, Arkansas also announced it was working to finalize new contracts with running backs coach Joel Thomas and receivers coach Michael Smith.


So there’s no guarantee they’ll return. But Pittman — who worked with Chaney at Tennessee before joining Bielema’s staff — squelched rumblings he was leaving for another position as well by taking to his Twitter account Sunday afternoon.


"I’m a razorback," Pittman tweeted a couple of hours before Arkansas gained a verbal commitment from four-star offensive lineman Jalen Merrick. "Don’t want to deal with rumors that aren’t true. #WPS."


Lineman Commits


Merrick, who is from New Smyrna Beach, Fla., announced his plans to enroll after choosing the Razorbacks over Florida and Florida State. Merrick is expected to be on campus this week and will be available to participate in spring practices.


"WooPigSooie!!!! What a great day to be a Hog!!," Pittman posted on Twitter.


There’s reason for Pittman’s enthusiasm. Rivals.com and Scout.com both rate Merrick as a four-star prospect on a five-star scale. The 6-foot-5, 310-pound lineman also is rated as the 13th-best guard in the nation, according to Rivals.com. He became the 19th prospect to make a verbal commitment to Arkansas for the 2015 class.


Merrick and seven others newcomers are scheduled to begin classes at Arkansas this week. He’ll join quarterback Ty Storey, tight end Will Gragg, defensive linemen Daytrieon Dean, Jeremiah Ledbetter and Hjalte Froholdt, and offensive lineman Zach Rogers and Josh Allen. Ledbetter is a junior college transfer.


Merrick also becomes the latest prospect from Florida the Razorbacks have secured since Bielema’s arrival in Dec. 2012. The list of Floridians on the roster include running back Alex Collins, guard Denver Kirkland, wide receivers Kendrick Edwards and Jojo Robinson, safety De’Andre Coley, linebacker Randy Ramsey, defensive end Anthony Brown, cornerback Cornelius Floyd and defensive tackle Ke’Tyrus Marks.