Shoop, Part II: Game Planning

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- When offensive coordinator John Shoop calls a play on game day, it is the culmination of a number of efforts. It's the effort of recruiting, the effort of individual players in the weight room and film room, and the effort put into practices – all of which occur out of the sight of the fan.

What is that process like? How does it work during game week and on game day? What influences the specific approaches to the offensive game plan?

Inside Carolina's Buck Sanders sat down with UNC offensive coordinator John Shoop earlier this month for a one-on-one interview. This is Part II of a five-part series running all this week from that interview session.
Part I: Acclimation
Part II: Game Planning
Part III: Wednesday
Part IV: Thursday
Part V: Friday
Start with the basic model -- a pro-style offense. This is the identity of UNC's offense, and one that Shoop and Davis agreed upon from the outset. "A lot of that was carved out in the interview process," Shoop said. "We see football the same way."

"We're a pro-style offense and what you see on Sundays is what you're going to see here in Chapel Hill -- that's how we roll, that's what you're going to see here. It is pro-style, it is as sophisticated as they come, and we're looking for players who are going to be playing on Sundays."

While there may be room for creativity within that model, don't look for the Tar Heels to abandon that offensive identity for some new offensive flavor.

Obviously preparation for specific opponents involves studying their film, entering their defensive sets and formations into a computer, and developing a sense of what approach they may take in specific down-and-distance situations on specific areas of the field, and at different points in a game. During the week, head coach Butch Davis has input into the offensive game plan, in meetings and on the practice field.

"There is no doubt as a head coach, (Davis) knows the offense, he knows the defense, and he knows the special teams – inside and out," Shoop said. "Is he in the minutiae every single meeting? Not necessarily, but he knows exactly what is going on, so during the week, he's in a good deal of the meetings, offering suggestions."

It is an interesting but familiar dynamic for Shoop, who is used to the input from head coaches with a background on defense. For nine of the 12 years he coached in the NFL, he worked with head coaches that had a defensive background.

"(Davis) has sat in meetings and said, ‘I don't think that's going to work,' and he's sat in meetings and said, ‘Man, you can't call that enough,' and he's sat in meetings and said, ‘Have you tried it this way? Because I think this is what the linebacker is reading,'" Shoop explained. "That's unbelievable for an offensive coordinator. What a great resource to have."

In terms of calling specific plays on game day, that is Shoop's domain. The plays you see on the field on Saturdays come at his direction. What the casual fan may not know is that many plays are designed so that either a pass or run may result, depending on the check of the defense by the quarterback. And by the time Saturdays arrive, Davis' influence on specific plays calls has ended.

"I've never felt second-guessed," Shoop said. "Shoot, we all shout over the headsets when something doesn't work, but if he doesn't like something in practice, he'll tell me Wednesday or Thursday. ‘Are you really thinking of calling that shot there?' His leadership style is sort of on the front end. On game day, I'm not saying that if I got hit by a truck on the way to the stadium things would just roll, but everybody knows the direction that we're going. The hay's in the barn by the time we get to game day."

Though Davis' influence on specific play calls ends on game day, his influence on the offensive game plan does not.

"(Davis) does a great job of saying, ‘You're in four-down territory,' or, ‘Don't take a sack here because we might not be in four-down territory,' or ‘Have a two-point play ready,' or ‘Let's shorten this game,'" Shoop said. "For instance, against Georgia Tech, once we had the lead, ‘Let's run the ball and shorten this game.' He definitely sets a theme for the entire game."

Yet when it comes to play calls, Shoop may be his own harshest critic.

"I'm the one complaining about calls more than Davis is," Shoop said. "‘Why did I call that, what was I thinking?' Basically, any play that didn't work, I should have called something else. I know that deal -- if it didn't work, I should have called something else."


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