Aggies hire “Chief” defensive coordinator


Texas A&M has upped the ante and cranked the arms race back up in the mightiest football conference in America. Reports are coming out of Baton Rouge that the Aggies have snagged LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis for the same position at A&M.

The New Orleans Times Picayune reported, “He is expected to be in College Station, Texas, within 24 hours for an official announcement.”

A new contract for Chavis at A&M would total approximately $1.67 million, which would make him the highest-paid assistant coach in the country, passing Bud West (DC) of Virginia Tech, Kirby Smart (DC) of Alabama and Cam Cameron (OC) of LSU. The position came open at A&M the day after the LSU game on Thanksgiving, a game in which LSU’s offense ran for 384 yards and totaled 491 yards of total offense.

Chavis, known by many simply as “Chief” did not fly home with the team Wednesday after the Tigers’ 31-28 loss to Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl on Tuesday. He reportedly met with LSU coach Les Miles and school administration before departing for his ranch in Knoxville, Tenn.

Just days after LSU renewed Chavis’ contract with a $30,000 bump in pay to $1.33 million per year, the Aggies have reportedly dangled an extra $350,000 to lure the defensive wizard from the best defense in the SEC to the worst. Chavis got into the SEC as an assistant coach in 1989 and was the defensive coordinator at Tennessee from 1995-2008.

It only made sense for Texas A&M to throw everything plus the kitchen sink at Chavis, who has a lengthy tenure in the SEC. Texas A&M finished last in the 14-team conference in total defense. LSU finished first in the conference and eighth in the nation in total defense.

This news comes off the heels of A&M’s 45-37 win over West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl on Monday.

The hiring of Chavis also pumps new life in the college football arms race.

The hire could certainly give the Aggies a much-needed shot in the recruiting arm as Chavis has a history of putting guys in the NFL and has always had a top defense to boot. Chavis, who has 25 years of experience in the rugged SEC, has produced a defense that has ranked among the top four in the league in total defense 15 times during his 20 seasons as a coordinator. Furthermore, Chavis has developed 41 players into first-team All-SEC selections since 1995 with another 15 earning first team All-America honors.

With Chavis as the defensive coordinator, Tennessee made five appearances in the SEC Championship Game, winning the league title in 1997 and 1998, and they were invited to three BCS bowl games.

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 was named the 2008 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Chavis has seen 21 players that he’s coached selected in the NFL Draft, including five in the first round, while also producing seven first-team All-Americans and nine first-team All-SEC performers. Over the past three years, six of the nine draft-eligible players who have started on the defensive line for the Tigers have been picked in the NFL Draft. In 2013, LSU became the first school in NFL Draft history to have six defensive players selected during the first three rounds. LSU finished with eight defenders selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, including first rounders in Barkevious Mingo (No. 5 overall) and Eric Reid (No. 18 overall). LSU was recently tabbed as “Defensive Line U.” by ESPN.

Chavis, the recipient of the 2011 Broyles National Assistant Coach of the Year, brings a philosophy to the field that features aggressive play, a commitment to physicality, and one that has the Tigers displaying a certain swagger.

"Chavis also coaches and recruits by the principal that there’s no substitute for speed, no matter the position on the field."

In his six years with the Tigers, Chavis’ defense has ranked in the top 12 nationally in total yards and scoring four times (2010, ’11,  ’12 and ’14). The Tigers have forced 132 turnovers, and the LSU defense has accounted for 12 touchdowns and a pair of safeties. In 66 games with the Tigers, Chavis’ defense has held the opponent to fewer than 100 net rushing yards 27 times.

In spite of losing seven starters and eight players to the NFL from the 2012 squad, Chavis managed to put together a defensive unit in 2013 that ranked No. 15 nationally in total defense, allowing 340.7 yards (143.2 rushing, 197.5 passing). With seven first time starters in the lineup, including a true freshman cornerback, the Tigers managed to rank No. 13 in the nation in passing yards allowed and No. 21 in scoring defense (22.0). For the second straight year, LSU shut down the nation’s most explosive player in Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, limiting the Aggies to a season-low 10 points and 299 total yards in the 34-10 victory.

LSU put together another outstanding season on defense in 2012 despite losing a pair of first-round draft picks and the top defensive player in college football prior to the season. The Tigers still managed to rank No. 8 nationally in total defense (307.6 yards per game) and No. 9 in rushing defense (101.6). LSU also allowed just 17.5 points per game, its fourth consecutive year of yielding 18 points or less.

LSU had its best year yet under Chavis in 2011 as the Tigers capped the year ranked in the top five in the nation in four categories including total defense (No. 2 at 261.5), scoring defense (No. 2 at 11.29), pass efficiency defense (No. 3 with 95.58 rating) and rushing defense (No. 5 at 90.07). LSU also ranked No. 8 nationally in pass defense with 171.43 yards per game.

LSU’s 2011 defense featured a young and explosive defensive front along with arguably the nation’s top secondary with two national award winners in Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne. LSU allowed only six first half touchdowns, including just two in the first quarter all season, as the Tigers rode their dominant defense’s style of play to a 13-0 regular season mark and the SEC title.

In both 2010 and 2011, Chavis and the Tigers defense featured the Thorpe Award winner (nation’s top defensive back) in Patrick Peterson in 2010 and Claiborne in 2011, as well as the Bednarik Award winner (nation’s top defender) in Peterson and Mathieu in 2011. LSU was also home to the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in Peterson (2010), Mathieu (2011 by AP) and Claiborne (2011 by Coaches).

LSU had four players off its 2011 defense selected in the NFL Draft, including two first rounders in Claiborne (6th overall) and defensive tackle Michael Brockers (12th overall).

Texas A&M also just imploded the west side of Kyle Field to rebuild a new, state-of-the-art stadium that will seat around 102,000 fans and even have restaurants inside the stadium.

Sep 6, 2014; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive back Clay Honeycutt (25) and defensive lineman Qualen Cunningham (9) celebrate after Honeycutt recovers a fumble during the third quarter against the Lamar Cardinals at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 6, 2014; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive back Clay Honeycutt (25) and defensive lineman Qualen Cunningham (9) celebrate after Honeycutt recovers a fumble during the third quarter against the Lamar Cardinals at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /