LSU needed a defensive coordinator after the 2008 season, and John Chavis needed a job.
The Tigers were coming off a wildly uneven 8-5 campaign in which LSU’s defense — led by co-coordinators Bradley Dale Peveto and Doug Mallory after Bo Pelini departed to be head coach at Nebraska — left much to be desired.
Chavis was out of work at Tennessee after he and the rest of former coach Phillip Fulmer’s staff were purged in Knoxville.
The rest is a match made in football heaven.
Making a steady transformation into a dominant force under Chavis, the Tigers have put one of their best defenses in years on the field in 2011. Tuesday, Chavis was rewarded by being named as the recipient of the 2011 Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach, at a luncheon in Little Rock, Ark.
It’s the first time Chavis, defensive coordinator at Tennessee from 1995-2008, has received the Broyles Award. He is also the first LSU assistant coach to be so honored.
LSU ranks second in the nation allowing 252.1 yards and 10.5 points per game, its fewest yards per game since 2006 (242.8) and fewest points per game since 1985 (10.3).
What kind of force have the Tigers been this season? LSU hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 13 games, a list of opponents that includes Heisman Trophy finalist Trent Richardson of Alabama and 2010 leading rusher LaMichael James of Oregon. Against nine Southeastern Conference opponents, LSU has given up just six touchdowns on defense (two rushing, four passing).
Chavis beat out a list of finalists that include Alabama linebackers and former LSU assistant coach Sal Sunseri, former Arkansas offensive coordinator and new UAB coach Garrick McGee, and Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
With LSU’s 42-10 victory over Georgia on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game, Chavis becomes the first coordinator in SEC history to win championship games with two different schools. Chavis was defensive coordinator at Tennessee, his alma mater, when the Volunteers won a pair of SEC titles in 1997 and 1998.
The game marked the 10th time this season the Tigers have held an opponent to 10 offensive points or less, including the past seven games.
The Broyles Award is named after former Arkansas coach and Athletic Director Frank Broyles. Finalists are chosen by a nine-man panel that includes former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer and former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden.
Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn won the Broyles Award last year, while Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart won in 2009.
Miles, Hudspeth finalists
LSU coach Les Miles was named Tuesday as one of 10 finalists for the Liberty Mutual national coach of the year award among Football Bowl Subdivision coaches.
The other finalists include first-year Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth, Alabama coach Nick Saban, Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Brady Hoke (Michigan), Mike London (Virginia), Bobby Petrino (Arkansas), Mark Richt (Georgia), Dabo Swinney (Clemson) and Bill Snyder (Kansas State).
Miles just led LSU to its first undefeated regular season since 1958 and will try to become the first coach in school history to win two national titles.
Hudspeth led the Ragin’ Cajuns to their first bowl appearance since 1970. ULL returns to practice Wednesday in preparation for its appearance in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Dec. 17 against San Diego State.
Towson coach Rob Ambrose, whose team is scheduled to play in Tiger Stadium on Sept. 29, 2012, is one of five finalists for the Football Championship Subdivision coach of the year award.
Also on Tuesday, Miles was named Region 2 coach of the year by the American Football Coaches Association. Miles is also one of five finalists for the Eddie Robinson national coach of the year award.
LSU excels academically
LSU finished three points ahead of Alabama when the teams met on the field in November.
The Tigers also rank three points ahead of the Crimson Tide in the classroom.
According to a report by the University of Central Florida, LSU ranks eighth among the 70 bowl participating teams in terms of Graduation Success Rate and is tied for 12th among all bowl teams in Academic Progress Rate.
LSU’s GSR of 77 ranks second among SEC bowl teams behind only Vanderbilt. LSU’s APR is 966, its highest score since the NCAA began compiling data in 2003-04.
Alabama has an APR of 963 and graduates 69 percent of its players.
Often teams participating in the BCS National Championship Game are lagging academically, but Richard Lapchick, the primary study author, said he was glad to see that wasn’t the case this year.
“That brought a big smile to my face,” Lapchick said.
LSU in mix for Spence
Highly touted defensive end Noah Spence of Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt told ESPN.com that LSU is among his five finalists along with Florida, Ohio State, Maryland and Penn State, his previous leader.
Spence (6-foot-4, 245 pounds) is ranked No. 4 overall on the ESPNU 150 and is the nation’s No. 2 defensive end prospect. He has been considered a lean to Penn State, but the upheaval on the coaching staff there has brought the other schools back into the picture.