Q&A: John Chavis

LSU's defensive coordinator discusses how much his unit improved through spring practices.

LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis met with the media last week before the Tiger Tour fundraiser stop in Baton Rouge.

TSD also posted Q&As last week with LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson, so be sure to check out those as well.

In this one, "Chief" discusses how much improvement he saw in his defense this spring, particularly along a defensive line that struggled to get much pressure last season. He weighs in on which young players are ready to take a step up and said one linebacker in particular had one of the best spring camps he's ever seen.

Get all that and much more in this Q&A with the man in charge of LSU's defense:

Q: A lot was made about the defense's struggles last year. How much improvement did you see out of your unit this spring?

CHAVIS: "We had some struggles, but with all that said and done, that unit stayed together, fought their rear ends off and we ended up with the 15th ranked [defense]. I'm extremely proud of what they accomplished, even though it's not the level we want to play at. We made a lot of progress in spring practice. We got more guys that understand. [Last year] we had a bunch of young guys playing on talent and talent alone. But they understand the scheme a bit better, and we saw them progress that way in spring practice."

Q: Christian Lacouture has been a hot name this spring. What have you seen from him, and who are some other defensive linemen ready to take a big step forward in 2014?

CHAVIS: "There are several guys with Christian being one of those guys. Inside, we've got two guys to replace. Danielle Hunter will take his game to a different level. Even though he played extremely well for us last year, he's capable of going to a different level. There's some good leadership there. We'll get Jermauria Rasco back and get a chance to see him play healthy for a full season. We'll be fine. Coach Haley does a tremendous job with our defensive line. We'll be young at a couple spots, but we'll be talented. When you recruit the guys that we recruit, there's a chance that you may be young, that you lose some juniors but that's part of recruiting good players."

Q: You made a big push to add defensive linemen late in the recruiting cycle for the Class of 2014. Will any of those guys be ready to step in and have an immediate impact?

CHAVIS: "There will be but I'm not ready to name names. There'll be somebody in the interior that will help us inside, and there may be a pass rusher that helps us. I don't know who those guys are going to be, but we'll have several options. We'll let them get here in June, get a dose of Tommy Moffitt in the weight room, then in August we'll find out who's most game ready. It's a little tougher to step in, particularly inside because of the physicality of the game in there. But I think we'll find a young guy that will help us."

Coach Chavis said D.J. Welter had an impressive spring camp
Q: Maquedius Bain and Greg Gilmore are still two of those young guys on the defensive line. What kind of strides did they make this spring?

CHAVIS: "Tremendous [strides]. I'll take you back and give you an example — Michael Brockers. His freshman year he comes in and at the beginning of the season, he's not anywhere near ready to play. Toward the end of the season, he probably could've played some, but we decided to redshirt him and two years after that he's a first rounder.

So it's maturity, it's spending time in the weight room. Tommy does a great job there, but it's mostly about maturity. You take an 18, 19-year-old and put them out there against a 22-year-old, there's a big difference."

Q: You moved those linebackers around to different positions during the spring. How did they take to those changes?

CHAVIS: "It's been interesting, and we kept moving them around. In the spring game, three guys that played on our purple team played a different position every series. I like to cross-train guys, because if someone goes down, it's not the guy that's behind him on the depth chart, but it's going to be the next best linebacker we're going to put in the game. We made a tremendous amount of progress.

Believe it or not, we had a senior that had his best spring practice. DJ [Welter] had the best spring practice I can easily say that I've been around. He was incredible this spring, and rightfully so because he's got a big guy behind him that's pushing, that's going to be a great player. Kendall Beckwith's going to play a lot of football this year, and for a while at LSU. Competition makes you better, and I think they took to it.

We moved Kwon Alexander to the weak side, and it fits him perfectly. Deion Jones did a tremendous job. Lamar Louis, even though he was restricted a little bit, he also did a really good job this spring."

Q: How much pride do you take as the team's linebacker coach when you see your players respond so well to those moves and continue to improve?

CHAVIS: "We take a lot of pride in being good up front. If you're going to win championships, you need good players everywhere. That's what we're here for, to compete for championships. We made some steps in that direction. We have a lot of work to do. I'm proud of those guys I coach personally, but I keep a big eye on the entire defense. And hopefully if we mature at a couple positions, we can create some special things."

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