ATLANTA — LSU football coach Les Miles said Monday it was premature to discuss possible changes on his coaching staff before tonight night’s Chick-fil-A Bowl against Georgia Tech.
"Right now, the only thing we are focused on is getting ready to play Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and I don’t want to do anything to take away from the opportunity our team has here in Atlanta," Miles said. "We have a chance to win our eighth game and finish the season on a positive note and that’s our focus.
"I will not make any additional comments regarding my staff until we return to Baton Rouge."
LSU released the written statement from Miles after a report on ESPN’s Web site, citing people who refused to be identified, said former Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis had agreed to become the Tigers’ new defensive coordinator.
LSU has allowed 31 points in three straight games, including back-to-back losses to Mississippi and Arkansas to end a disappointing 7-5 regular season. Earlier this season, Florida and Georgia each scored more than 50 in victories over the Tigers.
LSU ranks 11th in the Southeastern Conference with its average of 25.9 points allowed and last in the league by allowing 221 yards passing per game.
The defensive collapse helped lead to LSU’s drop out of the Top 25 one year after its national championship.
Though Miles said he won’t discuss plans for his staff until he returns to Baton Rouge, it’s clear changes are on the way.
Co-defensive coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto already has been introduced as the new head coach at Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La.
The other coordinator, Doug Mallory, confirmed Monday he is a candidate to be defensive coordinator at New Mexico.
Mallory insisted his focus now is on the bowl game against No. 14 Georgia Tech, which boasts the No. 3 rushing attack in the nation.
What about after tonight’s game?
"I can be on staff here," Mallory said.
As defensive coordinator?
"That I don’t know," he said. "I just know I have a job here."
LSU won its first four games this year, but the defensive problems became more apparent as the schedule grew more difficult. The Tigers gave up 51 points in a loss at Florida on Oct. 11 and then gave up 52 points in a home loss to Georgia on Oct. 25.
"I think the kids played hard throughout the year," Mallory said, adding he and Peveto accept responsibility for failing to turn the effort into better production.
"We certainly didn’t play as well as we expected and again that starts with us," Mallory said. "We’re the two who are going to take the blame. It’s our responsibility to prepare the defense. If they don’t execute, that’s our job. It’s our job to put them in position to be successful."
Even’s LSU’s only win in its last four games was difficult. The Tigers trailed Troy 31-3 before rallying for a 40-31 win on Nov. 15.
Now comes the bowl test against Georgia Tech, which finished a 9-3 regular season with a 45-42 win at Georgia.
Peveto said he’s glad LSU had extra time to prepare for the triple-option attack.
"To try to get ready for an offense like Georgia Tech in one week, I don’t see how people can do it," Peveto said . "We’ve had a month to get ready and you still feel like you need time.
"The great thing we had was time. We were able to take and break it down and teach concept by concept. We didn’t have to teach in a fast-forward pace like most people do in a season. There’s a lot to get ready for. They do a wonderful job of executing."
Georgia Tech had 472 yards rushing in a 41-23 win over Miami before beating Georgia while scoring 26 third-quarter points. Roddy Jones rushed for 214 yards in the win over the Bulldogs. Jonathan Dwyer added 144 yards rushing, his ninth 100-yard game of the season.
Georgia Tech first-year coach Paul Johnson faced some skepticism about his offense when he was hired from Navy. Some suggested the offense lacked big-play potential, but the Yellow Jackets had 64 plays of 20 yards or longer, including 20 plays for touchdowns.