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The Chief Is In Charge

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Coordinator John Chavis will have the defense ready to go by the time LSU travels to Cowboys Stadium to take on TCU. Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images.
Coordinator John Chavis will have the defense ready to go by the time LSU travels to Cowboys Stadium to take on TCU. Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images.

John Chavis has served as LSU’s defensive coordinator since 2009. In his four years on the job, the Tigers' NCAA rankings for total defense are as follows: 29th in 2009, ninth in 2010, second in 2011 and eighth in 2012. Clearly, after his first season, the defense has been humming along despite having to replace NFL-bound talent every year. Chavis already had a proven track record while at Tennessee, his alma mater, and his tenure at LSU has further solidified him as one of the nation’s top defensive minds.

One of Chavis’ key principles is pressuring the quarterback to make poor decisions. This is accomplished with big, physical lineman and fast defenders off the edge. At times, Chavis likes to deploy four defensive ends along the line of scrimmage on obvious passing downs. The Tigers must replace eight starters from last year’s defense and some key reserves. All three returning defenders are in the back seven, making the defensive line a top priority.

Despite their lack of starting experience, there’s plenty of talent and depth on hand to give LSU a formidable front four. Projected starters Jermauria Rasco, Anthony Johnson, Ego Ferguson, and Danielle Hunter all played a significant number of snaps last season. Rasco and Hunter (the perfect name for a defensive end) are just as athletic as the departed Mingo and Montgomery and may be even more polished, especially Rasco. Johnson and Ferguson are a couple of 300-pounders that can clog the middle as well as make plays up the field.

The Tigers were fortunate that middle linebacker Lamin Barrow and strong safety Craig Loston decided to return to Baton Rouge following their junior seasons. They’re the only two seniors projected to start on defense. Barrow will serve as the quarterback of the defense. He’s a great leader and is knowledgeable of Chavis’ defensive style and assignments. Chavis tends to use a lot of two-man coverage, a lot of Tampa 2. Loston will help solidify the secondary along with returning cornerback Jalen Mills.

Due to the level of recruiting by Les Miles and his staff, Chavis has plenty to work with, even if they are young and somewhat inexperienced. It’s a testament to the coaches and the way they develop their players when so many individuals leave the program early, as was the case following the 2012 season. One would surmise most of those players are ready for the next level and it also means there’s so much competition and incoming talent behind them that sometimes it’s easier to make an NFL squad than start for LSU’s defense.