LSU Photo - LSU's defense struggled throughout a disappointing 8-5 season a year ago, but the Tigers are expected to be much stronger under new defensive coordinator John Chavis.
When Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was the Bulldogs' quarterback during the 1990s, he never got the better of Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis.
It's been just as tough for Bobo and the Bulldogs beating Chavis at LSU.
Saturday's LSU-Georgia game at Sanford Stadium will pit the Bulldogs against more than just Zach Mettenberger when it comes to familiar faces. Bobo and Georgia head coach Mark Richt will be matching wits against Chavis for the 11th time in 13 seasons, easily making him the defensive coordinator the Bulldogs have faced most in the Richt era.
"I know they lost a lot of guys on defense, but they've always fielded athletes over there who can run and hit," Bobo said. "They always have big safeties and big corners, and Coach Chavis is going to do what he has done. His guys always play hard and fast, and we've got to get ready for a street fight, really, because that's what it is going to be."
The Bulldogs have struggled offensively in their last two matchups with LSU, managing 274 yards in a 20-13 loss at Athens in 2009 and 296 yards in the 42-10 humbling at the 2011 SEC championship game.
Chavis is 10-6 as a defensive coordinator against Georgia, having held that role at Tennessee from 1995 to 2008 before moving to Baton Rouge. He soon will be 57 years old and has been coaching in the SEC since 1989, giving him an "old school" label and an abundance of respect.
"When you think about it, what do most coaches say if they had a bad game or if things don't go well?" Richt said. "What are they going to go back to? They're going back to the basics and going back to fundamentals and learning how to tackle better and play with low pad level. All those things that meant something 20 or 30 years ago on defense mean something today.
"All those things that people think is old school is mandatory to having a good defense, and he's a great teacher of it."
Although the firing of head coach Phillip Fulmer headlined Tennessee's 2008 season, Chavis oversaw a Volunteers defense that tied for third nationally in fewest yards allowed. After being hired by Les Miles, Chavis began molding a defense that has finished among the top 12 nationally each of the past three seasons.
LSU's 2011 defense ranked second nationally and often started as many as seven sophomores, with the more familiar names being ends Sam Montgomery and Barkavious Mingo, cornerback Tyrann Mathieu and safety Eric Reid.
In his first four seasons in Baton Rouge, Chavis coached 19 players who were drafted into the NFL. Earlier this year, LSU became the first team ever to have six defensive players taken within the first three rounds.
"Any time you're replacing the guys we are, there is some work to be done," Chavis told reporters before the season. "The good thing is that we've got good talent. If there is a comforting thing about it, it's that we are replacing those guys with guys who are just talented."
The Tigers have been solid defensively through four games but not dominant, entering this week's game ranked No. 24 nationally, allowing 310 yards a game. Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, linebacker Lamin Barrow and safety Craig Loston are the most recognizable LSU defenders, though linebacker Kwon Alexander, defensive end Danielle Hunter and safety Micah Eugene are emerging stars who combined for 26 tackles in last Saturday's 35-21 win over Auburn.
"I just see really good, sound, solid fundamental football," Richt said. "Guys are knowing what to do, and guys are playing hard. He's been able to attract the personnel at LSU, and he was able to attract the personnel at Tennessee. They were able to attract great players who wanted to play for him."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs worked out Monday for an hour in full pads. Tight end Jay Rome (ankle) and outside linebacker James DeLoach (concussion) sat out the practice, while tailback Keith Marshall (shoulder) and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley (shoulder) were limited. ... CBS has used a six-day option for its Oct. 5 telecast, so kickoff time for the Tennessee-Georgia game in Knoxville will not be known until Sunday. ... Receiver Reggie Davis, who had two catches for 134 yards and a 98-yard touchdown against North Texas, was named Monday as SEC freshman of the week.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...