Defensive coordinator John Chavis leaving LSU for Texas A&M has created the biggest crisis in coach Les Miles’ 10-year tenure.
The quarterback-challenged Tigers win with defense, and Chavis won’t be easy to replace. Never mind LSU’s overall defensive numbers, which will be good no matter who gets the job because of the talent on hand.
What made Chavis special was the way he defended spread offenses.
Alabama’s Nick Saban, who knows a thing or two about defense, had no solution for Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. Johnny Heisman completed 24 of 31 passes while running for 92 yards in a stunning upset of the Crimson Tide in 2012, and he threw for 464 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 98 yards when Alabama outlasted the Aggies 49-42 in 2013.
To put it mildly, Manziel did not fare quite as well against Chavis’ defense. In his Heisman year, he went 29 of 56 for 276 yards with three interceptions and was sacked three times as LSU won 24-19, limiting him to 23 rushing yards.
In 2013, he went 16 for 41 for 224 yards with two interceptions and a long run of 13 yards as LSU trounced Texas A&M 34-10.
Until LSU’s very young defense came up empty against Auburn this year, Chavis excelled at containing Auburn coach Gus Malzahn’s run-based spread offense, too. In 2013, LSU was the only team to beat Auburn in the regular season, winning 35-21 in a game that was not even that close. Auburn did most of its damage offensively when it was hopelessly behind in the fourth quarter.
In 2009, when Malzahn was Auburn’s offensive coordinator, LSU trounced Auburn 31-10 and held the Tigers to 112 rushing yards, exactly 100 below their average.
LSU finished 26th, 12th, 2nd, 8th, 15th and 9th nationally in total defense during Chavis’ six years, but his ability to control the best offenses in the country is what the Tigers will miss most. They cannot afford any drop-off with their next coordinator if they want to get back to the top of the SEC.
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