Auburn and Texas A&M had two of the worst defenses in the SEC last season. Both teams played in a bowl game, but any semblance of a defense, and they could have competed for a division title.
That's exactly why they both went out and paid big money for high-profile defensive coordinators. Auburn hired former Florida head coach Will Muschamp while Texas A&M stole long-time SEC assistant coach John Chavis away from LSU.
Both were seen as great hires, but for the purposes of our Take Two, one has to be better. So we asked the question, which one will have more success in Year 1 at their new school?
Sam Khan: I'm going with Chavis for a few reasons. For starters, there's nowhere to go but up for the Aggies defensively. They were last in the SEC in 2014 in yards allowed per game (450.8) and rushing (216). Secondly, Chavis brings two decades of experience coordinating SEC defenses. Third, with the recruiting job the Aggies did in recent years, there's actually talent for Chavis to work with.
The defensive line has depth and a star in defensive end Myles Garrett, who is coming off an 11.5-sack season. Junior defensive end Daeshon Hall is poised for a breakout year. The Aggies added five-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack (338 pounds), and he could contribute quickly. Linebacker Otaro Alaka and safety Armani Watts shined when they hit the field as true freshmen and should be better this year, providing a good young foundation for this defense.
Questions regarding linebacker depth and the second cornerback linger. Corners are key in Chavis' defense with his press man coverage principles, and four-year starter De'Vante Harris fits that but there's competition for the spot opposite him between converted running back Brandon Williams and sophomore Nick Harvey. There is solid safety depth with Watts and Donovan Wilson -- who started in the Aggies' AutoZone Liberty Bowl win over West Virginia -- returning and ESPN JC 50 safety Justin Evans and ESPN 300 recruit Justin Dunning joining the group, both of whom have impressed in camp.
The Aggies don't have to be a great defense, just a respectable one. If Chavis can get them out of the cellar and into the top half of the SEC -- which I think is possible -- it will be a big success in his first year. His aggressive style suits the talent the Aggies have, and A&M's favorable schedule, with nine games in Texas and seven at Kyle Field (which now seats 102,511), sets up the Aggies for a big jump.
Greg Ostendorf: This is to take nothing away from Chavis, who I believe is one of the more respected assistant coaches in college football, but Muschamp has a proven track record in Year 1 everywhere he has been. In 2002 (Muschamp's first year as defensive coordinator), LSU finished 16th nationally in scoring defense. In 2006, Auburn finished seventh, allowing just 14 points per game. His first year at Texas, the Longhorns were No. 20. The man gets results.
Some will argue that he doesn't have the talent he has had in the past, and after what happened to Auburn down the stretch last year, it's hard to disagree. The Tigers allowed 30 or more points in seven of their last eight games and finished No. 63 in scoring defense. Still, this group is better than people think.
The primary reason for last year's collapse was the lack of a pass-rush. Nobody could get to the quarterback. Auburn shouldn't have that problem this year. Carl Lawson is healthy again, and he has been called 'unblockable' during fall camp. The Tigers also added a pair of high-profile recruits, Byron Cowart and Jeffrey Holland, who are both capable of applying pressure and both should play early. If they can get any kind of consistency from defensive tackle Montravius Adams, Auburn will be much-improved up front.
The biggest question mark then becomes the secondary, but Muschamp is a former safety. He will have his thumbprint all over that group. Just look at what he and new Auburn assistant Travaris Robinson did at Florida a season ago. The Gators had arguably the best secondary in the SEC.
When you compare the two coordinators, Chavis does have more experience. There's less risk he will leave for another job. But when it comes to immediate success, the edge has to go to Muschamp. And if Muschamp can deliver like he has in the past, this Auburn team has a chance to not only win the SEC, but win a national championship.