In another regular season SEC showdown with national championship implications, Chavis is keeping it cool once again. The bright lights don’t faze him.
Chavis, 55, is a perfect fit for college football’s showcase events because “with all the big games he has been a part of, there’s not much he hasn’t seen,” one-time Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said of Chavis, who helped the Volunteers win the 1998 national championship. “When you’ve got one like that [Alabama-LSU], the experience John brings counts for a whole lot.”
The winner of Saturday’s SEC West Division matchup between the Crimson Tide (8-0) and Tigers (8-0) will take the lead in the stretch run to the BCS championship game in January. Either Alabama or LSU will have a clear, albeit still difficult, road to the New Orleans Superdome. It’s highly unlikely the loser also would get a spot in the BCS title game, which has never included two teams from the same conference.
With so much at stake, Chavis doesn’t bother trying to play down the situation. He’s too much of a straight shooter for that. This Alabama-LSU game is about as good as it gets in college football, “and we’re excited, too,” Chavis said during an interview Wednesday night. “Certainly, the winner will have an advantage, in terms of trying to win championships [SEC and BCS]. That’s what’s expected here at LSU. Every year, that’s what we try to accomplish.”
Both Alabama and LSU have outstanding defenses. There are future high NFL draft picks on those units. “No question about that one,” Chavis said.
And the Tigers’ impressive defense reflects well on Chavis’s ability as a teacher. He directed the school’s steady turnaround the past three seasons. LSU became an elite defense again after Chavis switched schools.
Disappointed with LSU’s performance during the 2008 season, Coach Les Miles pursued Chavis, who led some of the SEC’s most productive defenses while serving as the coordinator at Tennessee, his alma mater, from 1995 to 2008.
During that time, the Volunteers were considered tough and well-disciplined. That’s what Chavis demanded.
After Chavis arrived in Baton Rouge, LSU regrouped well.
“Coach Miles felt like he needed some changes, but I certainly came into a very good situation,” Chavis said. “They recruited very well, so there was good talent here.
“The kids understood how to work and were willing to work. So when you come to a new place, and all the things you already need to be successful are already here, it makes it a good situation.”