- Chris Sprow, ESPN Insider
To find the last time LSU's defense struggled as it did last year, you have to go back to 1998. At the time, Nick Saban was crossing his arms in East Lansing, Les Miles was busy in Dallas trying to groom an heir to Jay Novacek and Gerry DiNardo was stalking the sideline in Tiger Stadium. That season, LSU waltzed into the opener ranked seventh but finished 4-7. Rough year.
But it was a great year for John Chavis.
The Tennessee Volunteers' defensive coordinator at the time, Chavis turned the Florida State war chant into a whisper when his defense led the Vols to a 23-16 win in the first BCS title game. Fast-forward 11 years, and all LSU and Les Miles are asking is for Chavis, the Tigers' new defensive coordinator, to do it again. Say what you want about the history of the program, Tigers fans, but it's fair to say expectations have changed some in Baton Rouge since '98.
Last season, those expectations weren't met. The LSU defense, which had finished first or second in scoring defense in the SEC for the three years prior, gave up 24.2 points a contest, ranking ninth in the league in that department.
"We're not SEC-ready yet," Chavis cautioned this week. He continues to settle into his new surroundings after a brilliant 14-year run in Knoxville. "Right now, the biggest goal for us as a staff is to reinstill that sense of relentlessness that you have to play with to be successful in this league."
Whether because of a talent drain -- LSU lost nine defenders to the NFL from 2006 to 2008 -- or just a season when it didn't come together, which Miles has explained in many ways, LSU fell off hard last year.
So Miles took advantage of the fact that a new administration was heading into Tennessee and got Chavis to come south. "Year in and year out, his defenses at Tennessee have been among the best, not only in our conference, but nationwide," Miles affirmed at the arrival.
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1dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
2dAndrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna