We still don’t have any official word on the hiring of John Chavis, but there’s also been no hint of anybody else.
Well, someone updated his Wikipedia page in the last 48 hours that shows him as the Razorbacks’ defensive coordinator at $1.55 million a year (he was getting $1.6 million at Texas A&M), but that can be done by anyone.
Some Arkansas fans think it’s a great hire. At least as many think it’s a horrible choice.
Taken in context, Chavis’ 23 years as a defensive coordinator — all of it in the SEC — puts him at a level Arkansas hasn’t seen since Frank Broyles and Lou Holtz convinced Monte Kiffin to come to Fayetteville in 1977.
As I said, take it in context. Chavis’ last three years at Texas A&M hasn’t produced the eye-popping results his defenses at LSU produced. The last six seasons were more consistent than his tenure at Tennessee (from 1995-2008, despite some media reports he was not the Vols’ defensive coordinator from 1989-1994 but a position coach).
He meets the criteria that makes you understand why Chad Morris said he was getting the best defensive coordinator in college football. There are many in the profession that still put him at the top.
Some look at the numbers at Texas A&M and scoff at that.
In his first year with the Aggies he took them from No. 102 in the nation in yards allowed (450.8) and tied for 75th in scoring allowed (28.1) to No. 42 in yards (367) and 29th in scoring (21.6).
Yes, they regressed in the second year, primarily due to some injuries to key players. Eventual No. 1 selection Myles Garrett leaps initially to mind. He suffered a high ankle sprain against Arkansas and never fully recovered.
But they bounced back to finish No. 60 in yardage this past season (389) and 82nd in scoring (28.7). For comparison, Arkansas was No. 100 in yardage (438) and No. 116 in scoring (36.2).
Keep in mind, too, even though he won’t admit it publicly (coaches seldom, if ever, throw previous employers under the bus for a few years) recruiting at Texas A&M was primarily on the offensive side of the ball and I think he had to accept some assistants that weren’t the best.
At A&M politics and Aggie pride sometimes trumps quality when it comes to football. That’s not my opinion … it’s what at least three previous head coaches there have told me. There’s a reason they haven’t won a championship there in 78 years.
Don’t look at the last three years with Chavis. Look at the body of work. If the game has passed him by, as some are convinced, we’ll know soon enough and changes can be made. The guess here is Morris’ offense will prevent a full-blown meltdown.
It’s also a guess Arkansas’ defense will be much improved, even with the players coming back.
Besides, who do you think the Hogs could get?
Brent Venables isn’t going to leave Clemson. That would be the biggest story in college football in quite some time if he left a regular title contender for a lateral move to a school that’s not in that category.
Don’t say it’s because they were trying to be cheap. When you get to coordinators, they are less likely to leave a winning situation for a lateral move over money than a head coach.
Some say find the best up-and-comer as a defensive coordinator, but that’s easier said than done. I don’t know who that would be.
We mentioned Kiffin coming to Arkansas in 1977 and immediately putting one of the best defenses in school history on the field.
It might be a stretch to expect Chavis (or even Venables) to come close to duplicating that.
There isn’t the same level of talent coming back that there was in 1977 (Dan Hampton, Larry Jackson and others) that had been coached by Jimmy Johnson for four years. A Hall of Famer coaching Hall of Famers.
While I think Paul Rhoads is a good guy and worked hard, he’s not Jimmy Johnson and I don’t see any future Hall of Famers on this roster.
So, if you don’t like the Chavis hire, who do you think they can get that’s better?