Challenging the Chief

LSU football coach Les Miles is banking on the idea that John Chavis can do the work of two men. Literally.

Chavis is the Tigers' new defensive coordinator, replacing the two-man committee that shared the job last fall - Doug Mallory and Bradley Peveto. In short, the Mallory-Peveto experiment was a dismal failure.

Despite such senior standouts as ends Tyson Jackson (No. 3 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft) and Kirston Pittman, tackle Marlon Favorite, linebacker Darry Beckwith and safety Curtis Taylor, LSU's 2008 stop unit ranked ninth among the 12 SEC teams in scoring defense (24.2 points per game), ninth in total defense (325.5 yards per game) and 11th in pass defense (215.4 yards per game).

Miles, however, will not admit that his decision to go with co-coordinators contributed to last season's defensive meltdown.

"I really don't think 'co' had anything to do with it," he said during the recent SEC Media Days at Hoover, Ala. "I thought both guys complemented each other. I think there was expertise on both sides."

If you say so, Coach. But both men bolted immediately after the season ended. And there will be one clearcut coordinator in 2009 ... Chavis, who handled the same role at Tennessee from 1995-2008.

Miles praised Chavis for "his experience in this league," adding that the Tiger defense made "marked improvement" during spring practice under the former Vol aide's guidance.

"I think John certainly has great experience, understands the want for dominant defense," Miles said. "I think our guys understand that (and) were really looking for that when John arrived on campus. I think he will expect and our guys will deliver.

"I think the strategies behind the call, the effort and the technique behind the play, will be improved."

In addition to Chavis, LSU has a new defensive line coach (Brick Haley) and a new secondary coach (Ron Cooper). All are coaching veterans with lengthy resumes.

"I think there's a great deal of experience and ability in the coaching staff," Miles said. "Our players want to play great, and understand there's a work habit and a work ethic there that's (to be) established. Again, I think it will fall together nicely."

Linebacker Jacob Cutrera thinks so, too. He believes LSU defenders are eager to redeem themselves after last season's misadventure.

"What happened to us last year, that's not our style of play at LSU," he said. "That's not how we want to be remembered. We went through the spring hungrier than ever. The intensity was there. Everybody bought into Coach Chavis' scheme that he brought in, and that carried over into summer workouts."

Asked what Chavis brings to the program, Cutrera answered without hesitation:

"Intensity. He's a fired-up guy every practice. Those two and a half hours we're out there he's in your face, and you'll know when you mess up. He's brought a lot of intensity, and the way he does things has helped out."

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