“It's obvious that he has pursued excellence his entire career,” Miles said of Chavis. “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."
Miles said that he spoke with Chavis on the phone several times and they met in person once in Baton Rouge.
Chavis had also been offered the defensive coordinator’s position at Clemson but he made it clear to Miles that he wanted to be at LSU.
"That's one of the pieces that was important for me to see John possess,” said Miles. “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.”
“I think he would like very much to coach our guys,” added Miles. “I think he understands that there’s speed, size and talent here.”
The decision to go in a different direction came after a season of turmoil for the defending National Champions where the Tigers dropped five Southeastern Conference games en route to a third place finish in the Western conference.
Headed by former co-defensive coordinators Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto, the Tigers finished across the bottom of the board in a majority of the conference's statistical categories on defense.
The Bayou Bengals gave up 3,918 yards to opponents this year, good for ninth in the SEC. While the rush defense looked good at times, the pass defense gave up 2,650 yards through the air, good for worst in the conference.
Miles hopes that Chavis' experience in both the SEC and as a defensive coordinator prior to LSU will pay dividends for the struggling Tiger defense.
"I think he understands what he wants,” said Miles. “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."
Miles said that Chavis will probably be in charge of the linebackers as well as running the defense. He doesn’t think there will be a drastic change in philosophy from what LSU ran in the previous years that Miles has been in Baton Rouge.
"I think philosophy stays the same,” said Miles. “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 Tigers will return six starters from the 2008 squad on the defensive side of the ball and Miles thinks the blend of veteran players to go with the younger guys will help the transition.
“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,” said the headman. “I look at it as youthful interior guys sprinkled with some veterans with some experienced linebackers and a pretty veteran secondary."
On the Recruiting Trail
Les Miles said that John Chavis was on the job for the first time on Friday and he’s already hit the recruiting trail.
Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto were considered good recruiters for the Tigers, but the guy they took over for in Bo Pelini was not active in that area.
How active will Chavis be on the recruiting front?
"I think he'll be a little bit more than Doug (Mallory) and Bo (Pelini), but Bradley Dale was out every snap, he was recruiting hard,” said Miles. “I don't think we'll allow him to do that."
According to Les Miles, his new defensive coordinator will have a say in who makes up the staff on the defensive side of the ball.
"Yes, he will have a say,” Miles said. “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."
Miles did not go into any other coaching moves on that side of the ball although an announcement is expected later this week where Chicago Bears and former Mississippi State defensive line coach Brick Haley, who was seen at the Football Ops complex, is expected to take over the line and South Carolina safeties coach/assistant head coach Ron Cooper will coach the secondary.
Miles did say that Earl Lane is still on the staff and that defensive ends and special teams coach Joe Robinson is expected to stay on in his current role.
Update on Underclassmen
Ricky Jean-Francois is not expected to be back but the status of the other juniors, who could possibly leave early for the NFL, is not known according to the headman.
T-Bob Hebert Update
The redshirt freshman is expected to be ready for spring practice, but the extent of how much action he will see remains up in the air as he recovers from a torn ACL.