LSU changed defensive coordinators; UGA still has Martinez

When last they met, Georgia and LSU mustered 90 points and 950 yards between them. When the offseason arrived, LSU coach Les Miles decided his defense was substandard and dumped his co-cordinators for John Chavis, the top free agent on the market. Georgia’s Mark Richt elevated John Jancek to co-coordinator but left Willie Martinez essentially at the tiller.

The teams meet again Saturday in Athens, and neither defense has been great. LSU surrendered 23 points to Washington, which seemed pretty shoddy until the Huskies up and beat Southern Cal, and 26 to Mississippi State and needed a goal-line stand to escape. Georgia did OK against Oklahoma State and Arizona State but yielded 37 points to South Carolina and 41 to Arkansas.

LSU ranks 49th nationally in total defense and 23rd in scoring defense; Georgia ranks 67th and 95th. The key difference: The Tigers are tied for fifth in turnover margin, having intercepted seven passes and recovered three fumbles; Georgia is 115th, having intercepted two passes and recovered one fumble. (Neither team has done much sacking: Each has five in four games.)

Here’s the difference: LSU’s defense stands to improve under Chavis, who was known as the Chief when he worked at Tennessee and whom former Vol coach Johnny Majors famously credited with saving Phillip Fulmer’s “job for the last 10 years.” Chavis has two SEC titles and a national championship on his coordinating resume.

Martinez, by way of contrast, has one SEC title as coordinator, that taken in 2005, the first season after Brian VanGorder left Athens. The years since have seen Georgia become less forceful on defense, which makes no sense when you espy the talent the Bulldogs keep attracting. (The LSU game of 2008, which Georgia won 52-38, was actually as assertive as Martinez’s men have been — linebacker Darryl Gamble returned two interceptions for touchdowns.)

But the belief in this space is that Chavis will instill the ethic of tenacity a big-time program must have. The belief is also that Martinez’s defense is based on the backpedal. Granted, Georgia held Arizona State to 204 yards and one offensive touchdown, but ASU might finish fifth (or worse) in the SEC East. There’s a higher standard in this conference, and Chavis has proved he can meet it.

This doesn’t mean LSU will beat Georgia on Saturday.  (I picked LSU to win 24-23 a while back.) The Tigers’ offense is awful statistically (105th nationally) and the game is in Athens. And these Bulldogs are developing a knack for winning close. Over the longer haul, though, the program with the Chief in charge of its defense figures to be in good hands. Can’t say the same about the other team. At least I can’t.

The Georgia defense under Martinez is trending downward. Over the past 10 games, opponents have averaged — averaged — 31.4 points. In 42 games under Brian VanGorder, Martinez’s predecessor, only once did the Bulldogs yield 30 points in a game. (And that was in the 2003 SEC championship game against an LSU team that would win the BCS title.)

It must be said: Steve Spurrier needed seven seasons to win a national championship at Florida, and he did it only after hiring Bob Stoops to run his defense; it took Mack Brown eight seasons to win one at Texas, and he did it only after importing Gene Chizik as coordinator.

Last winter Les Miles, who already has a BCS title in his portfolio, moved to hire Chavis. Mark Richt, who’s in his ninth season and who hasn’t yet played for the national championship, claimed his coaching staff might have done its finest job in 2008 despite losing three games in which the opponent scored 40-plus points each time. And Willie Martinez got a raise.

241 comments Add your comment

richtfan

September 30th, 2009
10:20 am

who knows. chavis is still running the same UT defense he has always run. they are typically vulnerable to the pass, and he has no player in the defensive backfield anywhere near the caliber of eric berry. i think it might be a shootout, which would favor UGA due to all of its offensive weapons. if it is a low scoring contest, then i’d be inclined to favor lsu. that’s why we play them on saturdays.

ChrisC

September 30th, 2009
10:21 am

FIRST!

First time ever.

Todd

September 30th, 2009
10:22 am

I always say evaluate the guy at the end of the yr.

Look, and Bradley I beg you to look in to this. Last yrs. with the likes of Stafford and Moreno, we put the defense in bad spots time and time.

People forget, going in to the FL game last yr. we had one loss folks, just beat the hell out of LSU in thier house….. then,

how many times can you say it, laid a freaking egg in Jax. How many times (please Bradley look this up) has the offense stunk up the joint in Jax under Mark Richt. Offense was the problem at the critical point in the season last yr.

The other thing GA fans cannot, will not, never, ever realize is that when we loose to FL, who gives a crap what happens after that. GA goes in to the tank always after loosing to FLorida, unless, unless, we still have a chance at the SEC title game.

Ga will win back to back against LSU and the Kitty, if the offense doesn’t stink up the joint. Am I’m just not sure about Coxy, he cannot make the mistakes he’s made so far, along with the good and great at times( majority of that came against Arky) and Ga go 2-0 then next 2 weeks.

wolfdawg

September 30th, 2009
10:22 am

ChrisC

September 30th, 2009
10:23 am

StuDawg

September 30th, 2009
10:23 am

Well said; in a nutshell, FIRE WILLIE!

navydawg

September 30th, 2009
10:23 am

I hope our “D” steps up this game!!!! This will be the game that could decide what the rest of the season will hold for us. GO DAWGS!!!!

Paul H

September 30th, 2009
10:23 am

Will the real UGA defense please stand up? And by “real” I mean the one that played against OSU and ASU.

And I think “m” just picked LSU to beat West Virginia in the SEC Championship this year.

Ken Griffey Jr.

September 30th, 2009
10:24 am

Free Willie!!!

Valdosta Dawg

September 30th, 2009
10:25 am

The bottom line is that no matter how we finish the season Willie has got to go, the defense has gotten worse every year under him. I know the players defend him now, I would bet though if he were gone then some would sing a new tune.
Anyway you cut it they keep winning the close ones and I do not give a hoot about stats when a W is the outcome. That includes stats on turnovers and penalties, however I am aware that eventually they will catch up to the DAWGS.
GO DAWGS, hold that TIGER!
AND to hell with Ga Tech!

Vick=Dog killing thug

September 30th, 2009
10:25 am

The loyalty must be to UGA football, not to a specific individual. If Willie cant cut the mustard then Richt has to man up and make a change. However, when I listen to the Mark Richt report on newstalk 750 WSB, Richt praises the defense so don’t expect a change anytime soon or at all. Willie is here to stay.

Dawgs73

September 30th, 2009
10:25 am

Mark, excellent point. You can say the same for almost every other coaching position/team in the SEC. The evolution or shall I say the improvement at almost every SEC school is a reason for concern. If Richt is not willing to admit weakness and improve, this team will start to regress in the standings. It’s no longer acceptable to “stand pat” and watch while you accumulate top 10 recruiting classes and “hope” for improvement. Change is a must!

murfdawg

September 30th, 2009
10:28 am

Mark,
You should be writing about Miss St defense. LSU had a pick six and a punt return for a td. Chavis did give up 26 and I guess you have to give him credit for the goal line stand. There is a fine line between genius and chump. And that line was drawn at the six inch line in Starkville.

observor

September 30th, 2009
10:28 am

You losers should really stop posting that inane and childish ‘first’ nonsense. You are almost never first, which makes you look like even bigger idiots then you already do for posting ‘first’.

Mark Bradley

September 30th, 2009
10:28 am

I would note the following: Spurrier didn’t win a BCS title until he hired Bob Stoops; Mack Brown didn’t win one until he recruited Gene Chizik.

Denver Dog

September 30th, 2009
10:29 am

So who did Chavis replace? They gave up quite a few to a really weak Miss State offense. I really don’t know what to expect. Washington did fairly well against them. I think that both teams are going to be ready for this one, but I feel one of those Willie M let downs coming. I think the players are at least equal, but I’m not sure about the schemes and the fire in the belly. We will just have to see. I’m not so sure that Chavis has had that great a defense all the time at UT. Peyton Manning makes up for alot of those defenses. UGA played them real tough when Goff coached, Donnan Coached and under Richt. Is UGA tired? Is UGA worn down? If we can’t move the ball on a slow methodical drive, it may not matter what happens on defense. We will see now won’t we?????????

tom-vinings

September 30th, 2009
10:29 am

I feel better that the Dawgs will win since MB has picked LSU… maybe our D will be better than LSU as this article is out there. Can MB predict a full recovery for Tebow???

hatfieldgeoff

September 30th, 2009
10:31 am

Mark, Keep these stories coming. Mark Richt made a mistake promoting from within when Van Gorder left. What is the chance that you had another great defensive coordinator on the staff? An average, or even an above average coordinator, just isn’t good enough in the SEC. You need to have one of the best to compete for championships (SEC and National). UGA could possibly have had Chavis if Richt had done the right thing last year. Mark, how about writing a story naming some of the top young defensive minds in football that might be a good fit for UGA? Hopefully Coach Richt will correct last years mistake at the end of this year.

HH

September 30th, 2009
10:34 am

All UGA fans would rather have Chavis as the defensive coordinator, too. BUT, here are the facts, Chavis ain’t an a$$—e buddy of Coach “Overrated” and Coach “Overrated” be calling the shots. Thanks, anyway, Bradley, for being one of the few to have the guts to tell the truth.

Joey

September 30th, 2009
10:38 am

Alas, Mark, having the game in Athens means next to nothing anymore. Back in the Dooley era and even in the Richt/Van Gorder years, Sanford Stadium was a tough place for an opponent. But not with Willie. If he stays a couple more years, he will probably have his name in the record books for most points allowed in a DC career. God help us….

Bob

September 30th, 2009
10:40 am

Not disagreeing on Chavis vs Martinez. But talk to me about a schedule of @ Washington; Vandy; Louisiana Lafayette and Miss State vice @Oklahoma State, South Carolina, @Arkansas and ASU. Then we can compare stats.

DawginLex

September 30th, 2009
10:41 am

Chavis runs the same scheme as WM. Bend but don’t break, don’t give up the big play, make them go the length of the field. Anyone who says any different doesn’t know football.

The points allowed this year by UGA would be substantially less if the turnovers didn’t contribute. When teams have had to drive the longer field, the D has done much better.

I’m not defending WM at all but those are the facts. This week unfortunately we are facing a kid at QB who is getting better each week and can run as well as throw. He would give any defense a problem.

It will be a shootout.

JB

September 30th, 2009
10:42 am

My four cents……….If Dawgs muddle through the year and win 8 games or so, even if they are all ugly, Willie comes back……..with a raise to boot (geez)……………..or………………….We lose to LSU, TENN, Auburn, blown out by Florida and…………gads TECH again, MARK won’t be making the call.
This is just a red meat blog to gets hits, but this situation is REAL in Athens. Why is this program going backwards in year 9 ? That would be a good blog……………………We all know what would be said.

Mark Bradley

September 30th, 2009
10:43 am

LSU’s coordinators last season were Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Pevoto. Neither is still employed by LSU.

Jim

September 30th, 2009
10:44 am

I would like to think the Dawgs would beat LSU this Saturday. The truth is if they continue to play as they have it will be a lost cause. I think they might give Helen Keller school for the blind a good game however.

Joey

September 30th, 2009
10:44 am

Denver Dog, I don’t really think Willie’s defenses have let downs. Frequently (exceptions W VA ‘06, Bama ‘08) they start out fired up and make a couple of stops, but once the real coaching starts, adjustments, schemes, etc, Willie is lost.

norman cowins haircut

September 30th, 2009
10:49 am

I’m not saying that Chavis resembles Saddam Hussein. I’m just saying.

Saint Simons

September 30th, 2009
10:51 am

SEC loves to play cupcake teams!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! hahahahahahahahaha

gdawginkalamazoo

September 30th, 2009
10:51 am

Intercepted SEVEN passes and recovered THREE fumbles? In the immortal words of Carl Lewis “UH-OH”. Guess we better not be turning the ball over this weekend or it will make for a long afternoon.

DirtyDawg

September 30th, 2009
10:52 am

To answer the question of who preceded Chavis…Doug Mallory, who had been a defensive backs coach under Pelini (before Pelini left for Nebraska) and was co-coordinator with a Dave Peveto who is now head-coach at small school in Louisiana – Mallory is now at New Mexico. By the way, they were heading the defense that throttled Ga Tech in the Pe-ach Bowl. Face it, Miles had no loyalty for these guys and as near as I can tell, Chavis hasn’t been much of an improvement.

Regardless, leave it to Bradley to stir the pot – kinda like FauxNews – and get the crazies re-riled up. The one thing that I found interesting is that Johnny Majors is, apparently, out of re-hab and taking these opportunities to get back at Phil Fulmer.

Mark Bradley

September 30th, 2009
10:53 am

Let me ask this: Did you ever see a Chavis defense not play with an edge? OK, maybe in that 63-point game against Florida when Peyton Manning was a junior. But in the years since?

Topp Dogg

September 30th, 2009
10:54 am

UGA NEEDS BUD FOSTER, NUFF SAID !

Mark Bradley

September 30th, 2009
10:55 am

Bud Foster. Good coach.

Joey

September 30th, 2009
10:55 am

We don’t get re-riled up, Dirty, we just like to hear the truth.

norman cowins haircut

September 30th, 2009
10:59 am

Mark, you might want to check UT’s 07 loss against Bama on the road. 41-17. Worse was the way they lost.

UT fans often credit that loss to Chavis and the total lack of effort from the defense.

John Parker Wilson looked like he was, I don’t know, a pro quarterback or something. Bama rolled up over 500 yards. UT corners played 15 yards of DJ Hall (13 catches, 185 yards) and they brought zero pressure all day.

The rumblings in Knoxville, despite what Majors said, really picked up then and didn’t die down all year. Even in the overtime win against Kentucky. Even after playing in the SEC-Championship.

http://www.rolltide.com/fls/8000/files/football/2007/bama08.htm

LizDawg

September 30th, 2009
11:02 am

Dang Mark B., you really are jumpin’ on the Fire CWM bandwagon! This week could be the straw that breaks his back…we shall see.

Herschel Talker

September 30th, 2009
11:03 am

MB – great blog! Awesome work! Much better than blaming Clint Barmes catch. Let’s start putting blame where it should be put – with underacheiving coaches.

Cuz

September 30th, 2009
11:03 am

Chavis looks like he shared one to many doughnuts with Coach Fulmer.

Let the beat down commence. Dawgs 45 Tiggers 24.

Mark Bradley

September 30th, 2009
11:05 am

Herschel, why do I have the feeling that I’m preaching to the choir — meaning you — on the issue of coordinators?

Regarding Bobby Cox, however, I believe we attend separate churches.

Beelzebub's Advocate

September 30th, 2009
11:08 am

Valdosta Dawg wrote: “The bottom line is that no matter how we finish the season Willie has got to go”

What if they play lights out, shut out the Gators and gather up a bunch of turnovers and defensive scores? What say you then?

robodawg

September 30th, 2009
11:09 am

MB, you’ve made some great points on this subject, but you keep avoiding that WM had a tenacious defense in ‘07. Not sure what happened last year, but to be fair, our team lacked tenacity on both sides of the ball then. A couple of poor showings this season, and a couple of good ones … I say evaluate at the end of the season.

If we don’t show the improvement we should expect, any chance of wooing Kirby Smart back home from Bama?

Moonlight Mile

September 30th, 2009
11:10 am

Defensive minds on the top teams in the SEC: Nick Saban, Charile Strong, John Chavis, Monte Kiffin, Ellis Johnson, Ted Roof.

I’m not sure you’d find too many people across the country who’d rank Martinez in the middle of that mix. Throw Rich Brooks in as well.

Mark Bradley

September 30th, 2009
11:10 am

I’d say there’s a chance. Nick Saban is famous for being tough on employees.

UGA Fan

September 30th, 2009
11:13 am

Chavis is vastly overrated. Did Chavis’ team not play with an edge? I point to UCLA last year. Chavis and CWM are about equal. UGA needs to ditch Bobo, CWM, and Fabris.

Mr. Manners

September 30th, 2009
11:13 am

If proper blog etiquette is to put a C for coach before a coach’s initials, is it also proper to refer to other blog posters by their initials, as long as you put a DA at the beginning? Just curious.

Trade School Junkie

September 30th, 2009
11:13 am

Know several Vol fans that were GRATEFUL when Chavis left. Dont understand what Miles saw in Chavis.

LSU-uga game might just look like the USC-uga game.

You know…a battle of “Big 12 defenses.”

UGA Fan

September 30th, 2009
11:15 am

I agree with Mark Saban is hard on employees, they like to learn and then move on. It is possible to get Kirby back in Athens but UGA will have to pony up for it and while we are at it put Pollack at DE’s coach as Fabris is clearly not producing anymore.

Mr. Manners

September 30th, 2009
11:19 am

For example DAMM, just to take that retort off the board.

GaryNearBatonRouge

September 30th, 2009
11:20 am

Actually, you’re right…We play a kid whose DEMONSTRABLY BETTER than Eric Berry…

His name is Patrick Peterson, & he’s a true sophomore. He’s a 6-1, 211 pound lockdown cover corner, & he will lock up on AJ Green this Saturday.

Green was 60+% of your passing offense this past week against a very bad ‘Zona State Sun Devil team. Out of Cox’s 242 yards, 150+ went towards Green.

Arizona State has nowhere near the caliber of athletes as LSU. Couple that with the fact that Cox has shown a penchant for throwing into coverage, & of his 5 picks, two have been for 6 points to the other team. Together, I think those two facts will prove to stymie the Dawg’s offense.

When we have the ball, if we can spread the field, we can attack the edges anytime we want. Hear me now, believe me later, LSU can run the ball everywhere…except between the tackles, LOL!

Through the air, we have two kids who are the equal-if not superior-of AJ Green in JoJo LaFell & Terrance Toliver.

LSU opens it up, puts together a few scoring drives, & Chavis turns the UGA offense into a sputtering mess on Saturday. A loss at home to the Tigers from Baton Rouge, setting up a classic tilt next Saturday in Tiger Stadium between the Gators & LSU.

gdawginkalamazoo

September 30th, 2009
11:20 am

I also find it problematic that we don’t seem to make the proper adjustments during the game either. Both sides of the ball seem to get progressively worse during the course of the game. Letting the other team waltz down the field or going three and out on the O side. That is why we have to wait till the last 5 seconds to win the game. Great to get a win no doubt but nobody needs the excitement.