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UT defensive play speaks on behalf of assistant Chavis

By Gary Lundy, News-Sentinel sportswriter
January 2, 2000

TEMPE, Ariz. - A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts tried to hire John Chavis to coach their defensive line.

It's a safe bet the Tennessee Vols' defensive coordinator will be approached with job offers again after tonight's Fiesta Bowl.

"It wouldn't surprise me if there were people contacting him now," defensive end Shaun Ellis said.

For the fourth consecutive season, the Vols rank in the top three in the SEC in total defense. UT is seventh in the nation in scoring defense (14.8 points) and rushing defense (89.6 yards).

"There are people who gain a reputation, and if you're one of those fortunate guys then you become a hot commodity," Chavis said without directly addressing the job issue.

"When you are more visible, as we are in this game and like we were last year in the national championship game, it gives you more exposure to a lot of people."

UT linebacker Raynoch Thompson says if he were at another school he'd be on the phone to Chavis.

"I think he's the best coordinator in college football, hands down," Thompson said.

"He almost knows too much. It's like he knows the quarterback is going to sneeze before he does it. I don't blame other teams for trying to get him. I know he could be a head coach. If you're Tennessee, it's kind of hard to keep so many people under one roof when you have so many coaches who could be a head coach.

"It was a scary feeling for me last year knowing coach Chavis might leave. He came and talked to me and asked me for my input. I told him regardless of what he decided I hoped it would work out best for him and his family. Selfishly I always wanted him to stay here."

Chavis has been at UT since 1989 and was promoted to defensive coordinator before the 1995 season. He says his work ethic hasn't changed despite being in a more visible job as a coordinator of one of the nation's top programs this decade.

"I've always had enough pride in what I'm doing I do my very best no matter if I'm the only one who sees it," he said. "I'm trying to please myself because I know if I do that everybody else will be happy, too."

Ellis said the rest of the nation has been slow to recognize Chavis' ability as a coach.

"We have one of the top defenses year in and year out," Ellis said.

"It's hard for me to imagine playing for any other coordinator."

Chavis says talking with the players helped him decide to turn down the NFL offer and remain at UT a year ago. Now some of those same players, including Ellis and Thompson, have a decision of their own to make about college and the NFL.

"There are a lot of factors you have to consider," Chavis said. "Each case is different and each kid has to consider a different set of factors.

"I just want them to do what's best for them and their future. If a guy is going to be a second-rounder, and he can become a first-rounder, then he has a choice to make. If a guy is a high first-rounder then I think it's a moot point because he can't do anything to improve his stock.

"But when I see a Peyton Manning do what he did and return for his senior season, I also applaud that because you don't always do something in life for the money."

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