Where's The Chief?

Earlier today I scanned cbssportsline.com football analyst Dennis Dodd's list of the NCAA's top six linebacker coaches, looking to see where he ranked Tennessee's John Chavis. Then I scanned the list again.

Well ... I'm STILL looking.

There's no sense bashing any of the six guys Dodd lists as the elite linebacker coaches – Brian Cabral (Colorado), Luke Fickell (Ohio State), Ken Norton (USC), Brock Spack (Purdue), Kevin Steele (Alabama) and Ron Vanderlinden (Penn State). They're all good coaches who have produced good 'backers through the years.

But how do you omit Chavis? Even if you question "The Chief" in terms of his abilities as a defensive coordinator – and he has some detractors – you can't question the man's track record as a linebacker coach. Hey, the skins are on the wall. Count 'em:

All-America selections ...

Leonard Little (1997), Al Wilson (1998), Raynoch Thompson (1999), Kevin Burnett (2004), Jerod Mayo (2007).

All-SEC selections ...

Darryl Hardy (1991), Leonard Little (1997), Al Wilson (1997 and '98), Raynoch Thompson (1998 and '99), Eric Westmoreland (2000), Kevin Burnett (2004), Jerod Mayo (2007).

Premium-round NFL Draft picks ...

Leonard Little (Round 2 of 1998), Al Wilson (Round 1 of 1999), Raynoch Thompson (Round 2 of 2000), Eddie Moore (Round 2 of 2003), Kevin Burnett (Round 2 of 2005), Jerod Mayo (Round 1 of 2008).

Still, probably the greatest testament to Chavis' abilities as a linebacker coach is the number of unheralded recruits he has turned into quality college and pro 'backers. This list includes:

- Earnest Fields, a 5-foot-9 sleeper from Milan who started from 1989-91 and still ranks third on UT's all-time list with 407 tackles.

- Darryl Hardy, a 6-foot-3, 195-pounder who started three years at UT, then spent seven seasons in the NFL, despite being a 10th-round draft pick.

- Ben Talley, a three-year starter at linebacker (1992-93) and defensive end (1994) who went on to play five seasons in the NFL.

- Dominique Stevenson, a converted running back who wound up starting for three years at UT (1999-2001) and then sticking for three years in the NFL.

- Scott Galyon, an obscure signee from Seymour who turned into a three-year starter (1993-95) and went on to play seven seasons in the NFL.

- Eric Westmoreland, a recruiting afterthought from Jasper who started for three years at UT, then spent six years in the NFL.

- Eddie Moore, a lightly regarded recruit from South Pittsburg who played so well as a Vol starter in 2001 and 2002 that he was selected in Round 2 of the '03 NFL Draft.

- Omar Gaither, a two-year Vol starter who lasted until Round 5 of the 2006 NFL Draft but is now a budding star for the Philadelphia Eagles.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories