JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer
HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin figured if he couldn’t score against John Chavis, he should hire him.
“That’s exactly what I did,” Sumlin said. “There’s really nothing more to the answer than that. That’s true. We’ve studied the defense. We get it.
“We struggled. It’s a great fit for us and a great fit for him.”
Chavis’ hiring was the hot topic for Sumlin’s appearance Tuesday at Southeastern Conference media days, trumping returning quarterback Kyle Allen and star defensive end Myles Garrett.
Sumlin’s Aggies have been struggling on defense and mostly prolific on offense — just not against Chavis’ defenses.
Texas A&M had averaged just 15 points in going 0-3 against the Tigers under Sumlin.
Sumlin was impressed enough to give Chavis a three-year, $5 million deal to rebuild the league’s worst defense in 2014.
He thinks the hiring of the veteran coordinator brought an instant infusion of needed confidence to the Aggies defense.
Sure sounds like it.
“Look at his track record,” defensive lineman Julien Obioha said. “He always turns things around. The first day he came in here, he said, ‘Look, I expect to win championships while I’m at A&M. I’ve got the talent and I’ve got the pieces to do it right now.'”
The hiring might also add some spice to the LSU-Texas A&M rivalry, though Sumlin says he’s not sure “if it can get any more spicy than it is now.”
Chavis and LSU have sued each other since his departure over a $400,000 buyout.
Sumlin denied reports that he called Chavis just before LSU’s bowl game, a conversation reported by the A&Mcoach’s (presumably now former) pool cleaner on Twitter.
As for the suits, Sumlin said: “It hasn’t been a distraction to me at all.”
There’s no doubt defense was the big offseason priority after a promising season that opened with a rapid rise into the top 10.
The Aggies swooned to a 2-5 regular-season finish, including a 59-0 loss to Alabama, after winning their first five games. They did rebound with a Liberty Bowl win over West Virginia, and Sumlin can point to a number of talented young players such as Allen, Garrett and wide receivers Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones as reasons for optimism.
“I’m as excited as any year that I’ve ever coached because I’ve got a lot of really, really good young talent that really went through a year unlike any other year I’ve been a part of,” Sumlin said.