John Chavis close to big-money deal

LSU is finalizing a new contract for defensive coordinator John Chavis that would pay him an average of $1.1 million over the next three years and make him one of the highest paid assistant coaches in college football.

Chavis, who won the Broyles Award last season as the nation's top assistant coach, has restored the edge to LSU's defense in his three seasons in Baton Rouge and made the Tigers one of the top defensive units in college football.

LSU finished second to Alabama nationally last season in both total defense and scoring defense. The Tigers have been in the top 11 nationally in scoring defense all three of Chavis' seasons at LSU. The only other team to do that the last three seasons was Alabama.

Chavis spent 14 seasons as the defensive coordinator at Tennessee before he was forced out with the rest of Phillip Fulmer's staff following the 2008 season.

LSU's Les Miles swooped in and hired Chavis, who earned $708,000 last season. Other schools, including Texas and Georgia, have expressed interest over the last three years, but Chavis has said repeatedly that he's grateful to be at LSU and has no desire to go anywhere else.

"He's turned down opportunities. He could easily have been at any number of places in the SEC as defensive coordinator for a huge raise," Miles told Gannett Louisiana Newspapers. "So I think this is really just market value."

It's also a statement.

"I think what we've done on defense has established LSU as a very dominant mainstay of defensive football for three years," Miles said. "I think this makes the statement that we will make a commitment to defensive play and excellent coaching, and I think that's exactly what we should do."

Miles added that Chavis had been "tremendously loyal to LSU and our football program."

Chavis' new deal will go before LSU's Board of Supervisors this summer for final approval. He's scheduled to earn $900,000 next season, $1.1 million in 2013 and $1.3 million in 2014.

Chavis' salary next season will rank him behind only Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart among SEC assistant coaches. Smart received a raise last month that takes him to $950,000 annually.

LSU's defense ranked 56th nationally in scoring defense in 2008. But with Chavis' arrival in 2009, the Tigers immediately moved up to 11th nationally that season, finished 11th again in scoring defense in 2010 and were second nationally a year ago.