For LSU, success this year could hinge on whether one head is better than two. Despite the fact that he wasn't in attendance, at least to your humble correspondent's knowledge, John Chavis was perhaps the central character in the narrative the Bayou Bengals tried to set up during their appearance Friday at SEC Media Days.
"His experience in the league, his comfort with a dominant defense, met very comfortably with those men on our campus where we have played dominant defense for our time," Les Miles said.
Well, except for last season.It isn't fair to tag the LSU defense with all of the blame for 2008's lackluster (by Baton Rouge standards) 8-5 record. But among the most embarrassing aspects of the Tigers' recent unpleasantness: The past season became the first time LSU gave up more than 50 points to two SEC opponents since the league was formed in 1933. And it happened so quickly -- Georgia hammered LSU 52-38 just two weeks after Florida clobbered the Bengals 51-21.
It didn't stop with that. In the last three weeks of the regular season, the Tigers allowed 31 points against Troy -- a game they nearly lost -- and Ole Miss and in a heart-breaking loss to LSU.
But Miles ruled out -- as he has in previous comments -- any idea that the responsibility for the defensive bloodletting lie at the feet of a co-defensive coorindator system run by Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto.
"I really don't think 'co' had anything to do with it," Miles said Friday. "To me, I thought both guys complemented each other. I think there was expertise on both sides."
Some of his players weren't so sure. Linebacker Jacob Cutrera said he didn't have any direct evidence, but ...
"There could have been some confusion. ... Two different minds, y'all put it together," he told reporters who asked him the question.
In steps Chavis, helmsman for years of solid defenses at Tennessee and ever-so-briefly unemployed after the implosion of the Fulmer Regime in Knoxville.
"He's a fired-up guy every practice," Cutrera said. "Those two and a half hours we're out there, he's in your face and you'll know when you mess up. He's brought a lot of intensity and the way he does things has helped out."
One of Chavis' former charges expects nothing less.
"They couldn't have a better defensive coordinator down there," said cornerback Eric Berry, who has blossomed into a darkhorse Heism@n contender after two years of Chavis' tutelage. "Coach Chavis is a very intense guy. He knows what he wants in a defense and what he wants out of his players."
It's a lot easier to know what you want when you're the only one calling the shots.