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LSU D making progress under Chavis

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU's new defensive coordinator said he wasn't the least bit embarrassed by the tears he shed after a game-saving goal-line stand earlier this season.

"When I stop feeling the emotion and the excitement about what those kids got done, man, when I stop feeling that way, then somebody else needs to be doing this," John "Chief" Chavis said this week, referring to the final minutes of a victory at Mississippi State earlier this season.

"When I'm walking down into that stadium, if the butterflies go away, then I need to go away."

Half way through Chavis' first season at LSU, it appears that the No. 9 Tigers are responding well to their new defensive coordinator's scheme, as well as his passionate coaching style.

Although LSU yielded 478 yards and 23 points in a season-opening victory at Washington, the Tigers (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) head into this Saturday's clash with Auburn (5-2, 2-2) having allowed averages of only 291.4 yards and 12.8 points in their last five games. LSU also has intercepted at least one pass in every game.

"We haven't been as good as we'd like, but we've gotten better each week," Chavis said. "There's no question about that."

Chavis spent the previous 14 years overseeing perennially tough defenses at Tennessee, so he was expected to get quick results. For the most part, the statistics indicate his unit is getting a lot tougher to score against.

One of only a few figures that really chafes Chavis is LSU's five sacks, which ranks last in the Southeastern Conference. Yet quarterbacks still have had trouble completing passes or putting up points against LSU.

"Certainly, when you've played six ball games, you need to have more than five sacks, but I think we've had good steady pressure," Chavis said. "If you get good pressure and you look at the (opponents') completion percentage (50.5 percent), you're pleased with that. I'll take steady pressure any day and we've been fortunate to have that."

Defensive pressure was something LSU routinely lacked last season, when the Tigers twice gave up more than 50 points in losses to Florida and Georgia, then gave up more than 30 points each in losses to Mississippi and Arkansas.

For the 2008 season, the Tigers gave up averages of 24 points and nearly 326 yards. Those results led 2008 co-defensive coordinators Bradley Dale Peveto and Doug Mallory to seek work elsewhere, and head coach Les Miles acted decisively to bring in Chavis, who was ready to leave the Volunteers when he found out his longtime boss, Phillip Fulmer, wouldn't be back as head coach.

In its 13-3 loss to Florida two weekends ago, LSU held the undefeated Gators to their lowest scoring total -- by 10 points -- in any game this season.

Chavis said his players were nonetheless disappointed by that performance, which the coach saw as a good sign.

"We try to sell our guys on the fact that defensively, what we want to do is outplay the other defense," Chavis said. "We want to be the best defense on the field and our guys didn't think they did that against Florida. They feel like they could have been better. That let me know that these guys have bought in completely to what we've talked about."

Chavis had the benefit of taking over a group looking for redemption and ready for new direction.

"We heard a lot of good things about him and the way he interacts with us, we love that," LSU linebacker Jacob Cutrera said. "We were just frustrated with how last year happened and we used it as a learning experience and went into this season motivated and ready to show what we could do, show that we are different."

Cutrera described Chavis as someone who hollers in a player's ear when a mistake has been made, and insists on repetition until they get it right. Off the field, and even sometimes one the sideline, Cutrera added, Chavis is like a father figure, hence his emotional response to the goal-line stand in Starkville, Miss.

"He was so happy -- happy with the way we played," Cutrera said. "He takes care of us, really, and we do love him. He's a great person."