The 34-year-old game-day hurricane comes to grips with a rough first year as a college position coach: “Oklahoma was 6-7. That’s not the standard. There’s no coddling.”
On a scale of 1-10, Oklahoma defensive ends coach Miguel Chavis winds himself up to a 50 on game day.
I tried focusing on Brent Venables in Venables’ first game as OU head coach last year. It was practically impossible because Chavis, the first-year assistant Venables brought with him from Clemson, kept hurling himself into view. It was serious Ultimate Warrior energy that Chavis brought to every game of OU’s 6-7 season.
It begs a question as Chavis embarks on Year 2: Does this 34-year-old game-day hurricane have a softer, more introspective side? Is he all gas, some brakes?
Chavis was in a comfortable, reflective mood the first day OU met the media this preseason, so I figured it worth asking about his first year as a full-time position coach (Chavis was a player development staffer at Clemson from 2017-21), about lessons learned and applied.
Here’s where that conversation took us.
Guerin: What did you learn about yourself last year?
Chavis: You don’t know what you don’t know. Just having humility. Coach Venables has always taught me to have humility, get better, do a great job of self-evaluating. Can you coach a technique better? Can you coach a scheme better? Can you say things with better verbiage that connects in a more potent way with your players? To get them to do what you need them to do, what they need to do to get themselves better.
But also found out that I can endure a valley. When I was coaching at Clemson for five years, it was easy to walk around with a smile on your face when you’re freaking beating everybody’s butt by 40 points. “I got joy in the Lord.” Well no duh. Really easy. My quiet time was amazing. Good job.
But man, the Lord will take us into valleys. You don’t wanna be there. Nobody likes them. Everybody’s trying to get to the top of Mount Everest. Nobody wants to be in the valley. But that’s where the growth happens.
So I think I learned about myself that I have a really good wife. I learned that my seven-year-old knows about wins and losses. He’s hilarious, Judah.
I learned that I’m built for this. I love it. I love it all. I want to be a winner at Oklahoma. That motivates me. Winning the national championship at Oklahoma? That motivates me. This place has been amazing. This place don’t take a back seat to nobody. Going to the College Football Playoff and winning, that motivates me.
My group, me and Coach Bates’ group (Todd Bates coaches OU defensive tackles), leading the country in sacks and TFLs (tackles for loss), that motivates me. Scaring people when they come to The Palace (Owen Field), that motivates me.
“Shutting haters up, that motivates me. Proving Coach V right. Proving President Harroz and Joe Castiglione right. Proving myself right. Proving my players right. Proving my recruits right. They believe in me. They believe in me and believe in Oklahoma.
Miguel Chavis, then a Clemson assistant, reacts to a Tiger score during Clemson’s 44-16 win over Alabama in the national championship game against Alabama on Jan. 7, 2019. (BART BOATWRIGHT/The Greenville News-USA TODAY Network)
Guerin: You found it difficult to tune out those haters?
Chavis: Listen, man, if you have any eyes or ears, like c’mon. The most politically correct thing to say is “What are you talking about? What do you mean haters?” That’s not why we do it, but that’s the cherry on top. Whether people love you or hate you, you’ve got a job to do.
Georgia won the national championship two years in a row. They’ve got lovers and haters. They still gotta go back to work. Oklahoma was 6-7 this past year. That’s not the standard. There’s no coddling. There’s no blame-shifting. There’s no pivoting from that. That’s not good.
But man, what’s great about life, when you have air in your lungs, you get a new day. I’m really thankful for a new day. I’m thankful for a new season. I’m thankful for a new opportunity. We gotta go through fall camp, but I wish we could spot the freakin’ ball today. For real. I can’t wait to get on the field and be with my guys.
Guerin: How old are you? 34? You’re still a pup in this industry…
Chavis: I guess. I’m a dog. I like the dog better than the pup. But yeah I think I’ll always be this way. I got a young spirit. I got juice.
Guerin: Right, but a coach’s first brush with adversity can be difficult when he’s so young…
Chavis: Yeah but not for me. I didn’t feel that. Being honest, I didn’t feel overwhelmed.
Guerin: Your confidence never waned even during something like 6-7?
Chavis: No. Not doing what we do. The confidence comes from knowledge that I’ve been here.
When I was a player my senior year we went 6-7 at Clemson. Lost to freaking Skip Holtz and the USF Bulls in the Charlotte Belk Bowl. OK? It was terrible. We lost. And I broke my foot in that game. Lisfranc. And they wanted to fire Coach Swinney. Freaking Dabo Swinney. They wanted to fire him. 6-7. Lost to South Carolina two years in a row. “This ain’t the guy. We made a mistake.”
The next year all he does is win the ACC championship for the first time in 20 years and the rest is history. OK?
So what was the difference? It was almost the same locker room. It takes time. It takes belief. You can’t waver. The sky is definitely not falling. We know what we’re doing, we know why we’re doing it, we know who we’re doing it with.