FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — John Chavis has been named defensive coordinator at Arkansas.
The university announced the hiring Tuesday, following weeks of speculation about the move.
Chavis is the last major piece of the Chad Morris coaching staff. Morris, formerly the head coach at SMU, was hired in early December after Bret Bielema was fired upon completion of a 4-8 season. Morris brought with him offensive coordinator Joe Craddock and other assistants from SMU but waited several weeks before hiring Chavis.
Chavis, 61, has coached in the SEC since 1989. He was at Tennessee from 1989 to 2008, where he coached defensive line and linebackers until 1994. Starting in 1995, he became Vols defensive coordinator, a job he held until 2009 when he left to become LSU’s defensive coordinator. Most recently, he has been the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M since 2015.
Chavis defenses have historically been among the best in the nation. However, his units at Texas A&M were, at best, middling. Besides finishing 63rd, 90th and 51st in FBS in total defense with the Aggies, those units were eighth, 10th and eighth in the SEC during those seasons.
How John Chavis defenses have fared in FBS rankings:
|Year||Yards per game||Points per game|
|2017||388.7 (63rd)||28.7 (81st)|
|2016||441.8 (90th)||24.5 (39th)|
|2015||380 (51st)||22.0 (28th)|
|2014||316.8 (9th)||17.5 (T-4th)|
|2013||340.7 (15th)||22.0 (21st)|
|2012||307.6 (8th)||17.5 (12th)|
|2011||261.5 (2nd)||11.3 (2nd)|
|2010||307.2 (12th)||18.2 (11th)|
|2009||327.6 (26th)||16.2 (11th)|
What the above table does show in a positive manner, however, is that Chavis’ defenses bend more than they break. Despite giving up yardage totals that would suggest the Aggies defense was porous in 2015 and 2016, Texas A&M was better than expected against those numbers when it came to keeping opponents off the scoreboard. In two of Chavis’ three seasons in College Station, Texas A&M ranked among the top 40 in the country in scoring defense. Arkansas was 85th and 68th in those two seasons.
Chavis becomes the elder statesman on Morris’ staff, as well. His counterpart, Craddock, is 32. Morris is 49.
It’s currently unclear how much Arkansas will pay Chavis as defensive coordinator, though it’s likely to be approximately twice as much as his predecessor. Paul Rhoads, who spent one season as Arkansas defensive coordinator, earned $700,000 in that capacity. Before that, previous defensive coordinator Robb Smith was paid $800,000 annually. Chavis earned a salary of $1.6 million at Texas A&M.
Chavis was the 2011 recipient of the Broyles Award, given annually to college football’s top assistant. At LSU that season, his defense allowed just 11 points per game as the Tigers finished the regular season unbeaten and won the SEC title.
Nicknamed Chief, Chavis is known for placing his highest recruiting priority on speed at all positions. He has a history of being aggressive as a play caller. Texas A&M led the SEC with 40 sacks during the 2017 regular season. The Aggies were second in the conference with 86 tackles for loss.
Once Morris was hired, it became apparent Rhoads would not be retained. He has since been hired to coach defensive backs at UCLA. The Razorbacks allowed an SEC-worst 36 points per game last season. They were particularly poor at preventing big play, allowing 20 plays of at least 40 yards in their 12 games.
SEC Country reporter Trent Shadid contributed to this report.