Razorbacks' new defensive coordinator John Chavis not ready for rocker

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Thursday, January 11, 2018
Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The man they call "The Chief" had a sequence during his introductory news conference for the Arkansas Razorbacks on Wednesday in which his passion for college football and his place in the game were on full display.

John "Chief" Chavis, 61, was asked whether his past couple of seasons as defensive coordinator at Texas A&M, in which the Aggies ranked No. 90 and No. 78 in total defense, made him feel challenged.

Translation: Has the game passed you by?

Chavis replied, "Let me say this, I've always been challenged."

Then he presented a fairly intense state-of-the-chief address.

"If I can't feel good about what we're doing in terms of being at the top of the league or at the top of the profession, then it's time for somebody else to do it," he said. "And hey, that day is going to come. It's just not now because it's still burning inside. Not necessarily because of the last two years there.

"I don't want to make this about me, but I know I can coach. I know I can recruit. I know I can motivate. I know I can develop players. And I know that's what we're going to do.

"If I feel like I can't do that, or somebody else feels like I can't do that, then, hey, send me off into the sunset or whatever. But it's not time for that yet. It's not time. I've got a lot of football left in me. I love it. It's what I enjoy doing. But I'm not going to cheat the game, and I'm not going to cheat the players."

Chavis, a 40-year coaching veteran who has spent the past 23 years as a coordinator in the SEC, has not cheated the defenses he's been a part of at Tennessee (1989-2008), LSU (2009-2014) and Texas A&M (2015-17) when it comes to playing the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Those teams have a 17-5 record against the Razorbacks, including a three-game winning streak while with the Aggies. Throw in the 1990 Cotton Bowl, when Tennessee defeated the Razorbacks 31-27 in Coach Ken Hatfield's final game, and Chavis is 18-5 against the Hogs. In overtime games, his teams are 4-0 against Arkansas, which is 12-3 in all other overtimes.

New Arkansas Coach Chad Morris said he pursued Chavis because of his reputation in the business, his fit with Morris' plans and his style of defense.

"What I was looking for was someone that was going to disrupt the quarterback, someone that was going to be aggressive and attacking, and someone that was going to run multiple fronts," Morris said. "And finally someone that was going to be able to take the secondary and tie it into the fronts, the pressures, the movements that has to happen up front. And to be able to have the back end tie in with the front end is so much a part of it. And to have John's experience is very valuable."

Chavis said his philosophy "isn't going to change a lot" from what he's done over the past 25 years.

"We take a lot of pride in being a great pressure defense," he said. "We're gonna affect the quarterback.

"If you want to win in this league, there's two things you've got to do. You've got to win the line of scrimmage and affect the quarterback. We're gonna do that. I've got a footprint of that out there already."

Chavis made reference to a couple of the strongest Arkansas teams over the past couple of decades, and he talked about how the Hogs can start reclaiming their former glory.

He zeroed in on a couple of battles with the Razorbacks that would stand out for Arkansas fans: 1998 and 2011.

"I can go back, and some of you may not want to talk about it, but I can go back to 1998 when I was at Tennessee and we played Arkansas," Chavis said. "We were both undefeated and both fighting for an opportunity to win a national championship.

"A game that could've gone either way. We played terrible defense that first half. We came back the second half and had a break and won the game [28-24]. We went on and won a national championship."

Chavis said during his discussions with Morris he recalled the 2011 Razorbacks, who went 11-2 in Bobby Petrino's final season.

"I told Coach Morris that was as fine an Arkansas football team as I've ever seen," Chavis said. "At LSU, we were No. 1 in the country, Alabama was No. 2 and Arkansas No. 3 in the country.

"So I've seen the caliber of teams that Arkansas can field. Certainly that's one of the things that will make me excited and keep me excited, knowing that it's possible.

"Everybody asks, 'Coach, can you win a national championship here?' Yeah, we're probably not going to win it tomorrow, but we can win a national championship here.

"I've seen Arkansas from that picture, and I know what it's like. I know what it can be like here, so we're excited about that."

DC history

Arkansas’ defensive coordinators since 1977:

2018 John Chavis

2017 Paul Rhoads

2014-2016 Robb Smith

2013 Chris Ash

2012 Paul Haynes

2008-2011 Willy Robinson

2005-2007 Reggie Herring

2002-2004 Dave Wommack

2001 John Thompson

2000 Bobby Allen/John Thompson

1998-1999 Bobby Allen/Keith Burns

1996-1997 Myles Aldridge

1995 Joe Lee Dunn

1991-1994 Joe Kines

1990 Joe Pate

1989 None listed

1984-1988 Fred Goldsmith

1981-1983 Don Lindsey

1980 Bob Cope

1977-1979 Monte Kiffin

SOURCE UA football media guide


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