Chavis tabbed assistant of year

Even in a down year for Tennessee's defense, 2006 is proving to be an up year for defensive coordinator John Chavis. The American Football Coaches Association today named him "Assistant Coach of the Year" for Div. 1-A.

In a statement released by the AFCA offices in Waco, Chavis had this to say of the award:

"It's a great honor to be selected. Any time you're recognized by your peers it's special, it's truly special. The people in this profession know what's happening on a daily basis and they see things other people don't see. They're in the same battles we are in, and to be recognized by your peers is the greatest compliment that can be paid.

"It also shows what we've been able to do here at Tennessee through the years. Obviously, we have a great staff to work with in Dan Brooks, Steve Caldwell and Larry Slade, and Coach Fulmer brings it all together. This award reflects what they've done as well as what I've done."

Chavis entered the 2006 season looking to replace seven starters from a 2005 unit that ranked second nationally in rushing defense at 82.5 yards per game. He then lost first-team cornerback and star tackle Justin Harrell to season-ending injuries in Game 2.

Minus so many quality players, Tennessee's defensive statistics slipped a bit in 2006. The Vols ranked seventh among the 12 SEC teams in total defense, eighth in scoring defense and ninth in rushing defense. The bright spot was a pass defense that ranked fifth in the league.

Even with a patchwork stop unit on the field, the Vols played well enough to go 9-3 overall and 5-3 in SEC play. They have a top-20 national ranking and should get a bid to either the Capital One or Outback Bowl this weekend.

In typically modest fashion, Chavis passed credit for the winning season to others.

"I think the biggest thing is the players we've had to coach," he said. "We've had the opportunity to coach a lot of outstanding athletes, a lot of guys who have performed well for us. It's a great achievement for me but, ultimately, there are a lot of people who have a big part in this."

Chavis, 50, is in his 18th year as an assistant at Tennessee and 28th overall. He began his UT coaching career in 1979 as a graduate assistant, then moved to Alabama A&M from 1980-83 as defensive line coach. He served as defensive coordinator at Alabama State from 1984-85, then returned to Alabama A&M as defensive coordinator in 1986. His unit ranked No. 1 in total defense in Division II for 1987 and '88.

After returning to UT as linebackers coach in 1989, he was promoted to defensive coordinator in 1995. Eight times in the 11 years since then Tennessee has ranked among the top three SEC teams in total defense.

Other finalists for the Division I-A award were Tyrone Nix of South Carolina and Charlie Stubbs of Tulsa.

The AFCA award is based on more than just on-field success. It also encompasses the influence a coach has on his players, his fellow coaches and his community.

The five winners of Assistant Coach of the Year awards will be honored at the AFCA Kickoff Luncheon Jan. 8 during the 2007 AFCA Convention in San Antonio.

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