John Chavis named Arkansas defensive coordinator; offensive staff hired

By: Scottie Bordelon , Matt Jones
Published: Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis is shown before the start of an NCAA college football game against Prairie View A&M Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M won 67-0.(AP Photo/Sam Craft)
Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis is shown before the start of an NCAA college football game against Prairie View A&M Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M won 67-0.(AP Photo/Sam Craft)

— Arkansas has hired Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis to the same position, ending weeks of speculation that one of college football's longest-tenured coordinators would join Chad Morris' first coaching staff with the Razorbacks.

Chavis, 61 and nicknamed "The Chief," has spent the past 23 seasons coordinating SEC defenses at Tennessee (1995-2008), LSU (2009-14) and Texas A&M (2015-17). In 2011, he won the Broyles Award as the nation's best assistant coach.

He becomes Arkansas’ third defensive coordinator in as many years, following Robb Smith (2014-16) and Paul Rhoads (2017), and the program's sixth defensive coordinator since the 2011 season.

Chavis, who also will coach linebackers, was one of two coordinators officially hired Tuesday. Arkansas also confirmed Joe Craddock, 32, would be the team's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.


Joe Craddock spent three seasons as offensive coordinator at SMU. + Enlarge

Craddock, who has spent the past three seasons coordinating the offense at SMU, was one of five men hired to an assistant coaching position in December after Morris was hired as the Razorbacks' head coach. But none of the assistants hired last month were given specific roles at the time, according to their two-page contracts that were to be amended at a later date.

Other former SMU assistants who have signed contracts at Arkansas include running backs coach Jeff Traylor, receivers coach Justin Stepp and offensive line coach Dustin Fry. Former SMU strength and conditioning coach Trumain Carroll will assume the same role at Arkansas.

Barry Lunney Jr., a former Arkansas quarterback, will retain his position as tight ends coach. Lunney was the only member of the on-field assistant coaching staff who was not fired when Morris was hired in December.

Morris has yet to officially announce his defensive staff, but reports have linked former Boise State defensive line coach Steve Caldwell and former Texas A&M defensive backs coach Ron Cooper to positions on the Razorbacks' staff. Caldwell, who previously was an assistant at Arkansas from 2010-12, coached with Chavis for 14 seasons at Tennessee. Cooper, a former head coach at Louisville, has coached with Chavis at LSU and Texas A&M.

At Tennessee and LSU, Chavis combined to have seven defenses that finished in the top 10 nationally and five more than ranked in the top 15. He coached 11 first-round draft picks at Tennessee and five at LSU.

At Texas A&M, Chavis coached defensive end Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, but his defenses never lived up to those at his previous two stops. His best defense at Texas A&M ranked 52nd nationally in 2015.

The Aggies ranked 78th in 2017, allowing an average of 408.6 yards per game. Texas A&M allowed at least 43 points five times, including a season-high 55 in a loss to Wake Forest in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 29. The Demon Deacons recorded 646 yards of total offense in the bowl game.

Chavis, a native of Dillon, S.C., played college football at Tennessee and got his coaching start there as a graduate assistant under Johnny Majors in 1979. After stops at Alabama A&M and Alabama State, he rejoined Majors' Tennessee staff in 1989 as an assistant coaching the defensive line and linebackers.

In 1995 he was promoted to defensive coordinator and in 14 seasons was part of a national championship (1998), five SEC Championship Game appearances and two conference titles.

After longtime head coach Philip Fulmer resigned at Tennessee following the 2008 season, Chavis was hired at LSU, where between 2009-13 he had 21 of his players selected in the NFL Draft. At the 2013 draft, LSU had eight defensive players taken and a record six in the first three rounds.

In his six seasons with the Tigers, his defenses scored 14 touchdowns and finished top 12 nationally in total defense four times.

While Chavis’ defenses at Texas A&M struggled in yards and points allowed, it ranked in the top 10 in tackles for loss and sacks in his first two years.

Arkansas' defense ranked below those Chavis fielded at Texas A&M in two of three seasons. The Razorbacks were 101st nationally in total defense in 2017, allowing an average of 438.3 yards and 36.2 points per game in the first season playing a 3-4 alignment.

Asked last month which defensive alignment he prefers, Morris said he plans to run a look at Arkansas that includes multiple fronts.

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