December 29, 2008
Les Miles got his holiday wish: LSU has reportedly hired longtime Tennessee assistant John Chavis to revive its flagging defense, according to ESPN's Chris Low, and Miles didn't have to fire either of the co-coordinators of this year's disappointing unit to get him. Bradley Dale Peveto is taking over the big chair at Northwestern State, and Doug Mallory is all but in as the new defensive coordinator at New Mexico. Instant upgrade, no mess.
Well no mess except the LSU defense itself, obviously, where most of the woe stemmed from the very young secondary: The Tigers finished ninth or worse in the conference in total, scoring and pass efficiency defense, dead last in pass defense, and just one takeaway ahead of Georgia for the lowest number in the conference. Interceptions fell from 23 during the 2007 championship season to seven this year, and opponents' points rose dramatically; only one team scored 30 points in regulation on LSU in '07 (Alabama, with the aid of a Javier Arenas punt return for touchdown), but this year's edition allowed 44 to Florida, 38 to Georgia, 31 to Ole Miss and 31 to Arkansas in the process of losing five of its last six SEC games, and that's excluding the Jarrett Lee Pick Six-a-thon. The fire-breathing unit of 2007 may not be a fair comparison, but for the Tigers' remaining talent on that side of the ball, sharing the bottom reaches of the conference with Kentucky, Mississippi State and Arkansas is inexcusable.
Chavis, on the other hand, might be vastly undervalued for guiding one of the best defenses in the country in the midst of wholesale meltdown in Knoxville: Tennessee finished in the top-15 nationally in every major defensive category, and fourth in total defense. Somehow, the Vols were even tenth in scoring defense despite the statistical burden of defensive or special teams touchdowns by UCLA, Florida, Auburn, South Carolina, Wyoming and Vanderbilt, without which UT would have allowed fewer points than any team in the conference. If there was anyone on the Tennessee sideline who held is own during the team's collapse, it was Chavis.
Just keep his bad quarterback karma away from Jordan Jefferson -- LSU's counting on him, you know.