John Chavis Named LSU's Defensive Coordinator

John Chavis (photo courtesy of Tennessee)
John Chavis (photo courtesy of Tennessee) (@LSUsports) (@LSUsports)
LSU Sports Interactive

Note: Comments from Les Miles below:

BATON ROUGE -- John Chavis, a veteran defensive coordinator with 20 years of experience in the Southeastern Conference, has been tabbed as LSU’s defensive coordinator, head coach Les Miles announced on Monday.

 “John Chavis is a tremendous coach who has had a great deal of success over a long period of time in the SEC,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “You look back at what he’s been able to accomplish defensively at Tennessee over the past 14 years and it’s hard not to be impressed.

“Year in and year out, his defenses at Tennessee have been among the best not only in our conference, but nationwide. He’s going to bring to LSU a style of coaching and an ability to relate to our players that will breed success. We are excited to have him on board.”

Chavis, who spent the past 14 years as the defensive coordinator at Tennessee, has established himself as one of the top defensive coaches in college football. In 14 years as the defensive coordinator for the Vols, Tennessee ranked among the top four in the SEC in total defense 10 times.

Furthermore, during his 14 seasons as the defensive coordinator with the Vols, Tennessee won at least nine games 11 times, reaching double-figures in victories eight times during that span. Tennessee won a school-record 13 games on its way to capturing the BCS National Championship in 1998. The Vols had 11 wins 1995, 1997, and 2001 and they won 10 games in 1996, 2003, 2004, and 2007.  

The Vols also participated in 12 bowl games since the 1995 season, including three appearances in BCS bowl games. The Vols made appearances in the SEC Championship Game five times during Chavis’ tenure as defensive coordinator, winning the league title in 1997 and 1998.

Some of the highlights during his career with the Vols include leading the SEC in yards allowed (236.6) and scoring (14.3) in 1996; two years later during their national championship run, the Vols ranked No. 2 in the SEC in total yards allowed, passing and rushing yards allowed and scoring defense.

Tennessee was first in the SEC in rushing yards allowed in both 2000 and 2001, holding opponents to 74.3 and 85.3 yards, respectively. The Vols again led the SEC in rushing defense in 2005, limiting opponents to 82.5 yards a contest. Since the 1995 season, only Florida has led the SEC in rushing defense more times (4) than Tennessee (3).

Despite a 5-7 mark in 2008, Tennessee’s defense was not only among the best in the SEC, but also one of the top units in the country. The Vols ranked No. 2 in the SEC and No. 3 in the nation in total defense, allowing 263.5 yards per game. The Vols were also No. 2 in the league and No. 4 in the nation in pass defense with 160.4 yards per contest.

Other coaching accomplishments for Chavis at Tennessee include coaching four linebackers to first-team All-America honors in Leonard Little (1997), Al Wilson (1998), Raynoch Thompson (1999) and Kevin Burnett (2004). All four of those players were selected in the NFL Draft with Wilson being a first round selection. Chavis also coached Jerod Mayo, who was the 10th player taken in the 2008 NFL Draft and recently named as the 2008 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

On the conference level, Chavis has helped develop 24 players into first-team All-SEC selections since 1995.

Individually, Chavis was named the recipient of the coveted American Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year honor in 2006.

A 31-year coaching veteran at the collegiate level, Chavis got his start as a graduate assistant at Tennessee in 1979. After a year with the Vols, Chavis then moved to Alabama A&M from 1980-83 as the defensive line coach. Chavis jumped to Alabama State from 1984-85 serving as the defensive coordinator before moving back to Alabama A&M from 1986-88. Alabama A&M ranked No. 1 in Division II in total defense in both 1987 and 1988.

Chavis returned to his Alma Mater in 1989 season, serving as the defensive line and linebackers coach. He held that position until 1995 when he was promoted to defensive coordinator.

Chavis, who is originally from Dillon, S.C., is married to the former Diane Crisp. They are the parents of sons, John and Jason.

The Chavis File
Year at LSU:
First (appointed Jan. 5, 2009)
Birthdate: Oct. 16, 1956 in Dillon, S.C.
Wife: Diane Crisp Davis
Children: John (28), Jason (26)
High School: Dillon (S.C.) High School
College: Tennessee, 79

Playing Experience
1976-78 Tennessee (middle guard)

Coaching Experience
1979 Tennessee (graduate assistant)
1980-83 Alabama A&M (defensive line)
1984-85 Alabama State (defensive coordinator)
1986-88 Alabama A&M (defensive coordinator)
1989-2008 Tennessee (defensive line/linebackers, 1989-94; defensive coordinator/linebackers, 1995-2008)
2009 LSU (defensive coordinator/linebackers)

Bowl Experience
1979 Bluebonnet (Tennessee lost Purdue, 27-22)
1990 Cotton (Tennessee def. Arkansas, 31-27)
1991 Sugar (Tennessee def. Virginia, 23-22)
1992 Fiesta (Tennessee lost Penn State, 42-17)
1993 Hall of Fame (Tennessee def. Boston College, 38-23)
1994 Florida Citrus (Tennessee lost Penn State, 31-13)
1994 Gator (Tennessee def. Virginia Tech, 45-23)
1996 Florida Citrus (Tennessee def. Ohio State, 20-14)
1997 Florida Citrus (Tennessee def. Northwestern, 48-28)
1998 Orange (Tennessee lost Nebraska, 42-17)
1999 Fiesta (Tennessee def. Florida State, 23-16)
2000 Fiesta (Tennessee lost Nebraska, 31-21)
2001 Cotton (Tennessee lost Kansas State, 35-21)
2002 Florida Citrus (Tennessee def. Michigan, 45-17)
2002 Peach (Tennessee lost Maryland, 30-3)
2004 Peach (Tennessee lost Clemson, 27-14)
2005 Cotton (Tennessee def. Texas A&M, 38-7)
2007 Outback (Tennessee lost Penn State, 20-10)
2008 Outback (Tennessee def. Wisconsin, 21-17)



Opening Statement about the hire of new defensive coordinator John Chavis...
"It's obvious that he has pursued excellence his entire career. The people that have been coached by him and the defenses that he has run just speak to him knowing exactly what he's doing. We really appreciate the fact that he will come in with a lot of great experience in this conference. He ran a great defense this year with a team that was not as successful, that did not win many games and that speaks to great morale and to a defense playing just to play defense. That may be his greatest qualification."

On if Chavis will have say in the hiring of other defensive staff...
"Yes, he will have a say. It would be inappropriate for me to fill the room suggesting he work with these guys. You don't want to bring a guy in and find out that he's uncomfortable with other staff that you've hired."

On how important the fit of the staff is to him...
"That's one of the pieces that was important for me to see John possess. John's just a team guy, you can really tell that. He's admired LSU from afar and I think he saw some advantages here and I think he wanted to be at LSU. He's been awfully loyal to the place he was at and the coach he was with. When you talk to people who have been coached by him and have coached with him, he is a team player. I think we'll enjoy that."

On Chavis' coaching style...
"I think he understand what he wants. It will be described in meetings. I think he's a guy that listens and takes suggestions, but I also think he's a guy that knows exactly what he wants to do and is about doing it in the best way that it can be done. He'll certainly have his initials on it. It will be one that will be reached by the group of defensive coaches."

On the type of candidate he looks for...
"I need someone who understands and knows what to expect, what we're comfortable with in the type of defense we run here. I want great defense. I want somebody that has that kind of experience in this league.”

On what will stay the same and what will change with new coaches...
"I think philosophy stays the same. We have to make sure that John Chavis is comfortable in things that he calls and how he calls it. That is something that will be determined later. The good news is that I think we're veteran enough at places that we can transfer knowledge comfortably and I think we're young enough at places where the first-time learners will get it that way. I look at it as youthful interior guys sprinkled with some veterans with some experienced linebackers and a pretty veteran secondary."

On if John Chavis will coach any position...
"John's always been a position guy. I think he enjoys coaching the linebackers. I'd hate to speak for him, but I think that's what he's going to do."

On if he feels this is a turning point in his time at LSU...
"I'm looking forward to the new staff being assembled. I think it will be good for our defense and our team. I think there will be some pieces in place now that we needed to have in place. I think the future is very bright here."

On how you research a coach...
"You see how they play. How hard they play and, tactically, how they're deployed how they stunt and blitz, etc. I remember the first time we played Tennessee in our stadium and we hit a couple of big plays and that was it for the half. There were some mistakes made, but it was frustrating. I remember that and the SEC Championship game where we got 21 points, seven of them on defense, and we had to fight like heck to get the 14 we got. I recall a very talented LSU offense fighting hard in that game against a very good Tennessee defense."

On how active Chavis will be in recruiting...
"I think he'll be a little bit more than Doug (Mallory) and Bo (Peveto), but Bradley Dale was out every snap, he was recruiting hard. I don't think we'll allow him to do that."

On how he would characterize a Bo Pelini defense and a John Chavis defense...
"I think there are some differences. I think the similarities are greater than the differences. I think toughness and a standard of excellence and being used to the style of defense that we're playing here. I think you'll find that those things are similar."