Bob Shoop inheriting talented Vols defense

Bob Shoop is Tennessee's new defensive coordinator. InsideTennessee takes a look at the players he will be leading in 2016.

Bob Shoop officially became Tennessee’s defensive coordinator Saturday night and the Volunteers’ newest assistant coach has to be licking his chops to command an experienced, talented group.

The former Penn State and Vanderbilt defensive coordinator used phrases such as “building a great program,” “program on the rise” and “will compete for an SEC championship” in a press release.

The Vols had one of their best offenses in program history in 2012, and that group was held to 303 total yards and 10 points by Shoop's Vanderbilt defense. In their other 11 games, Tennessee averaged 37.8 points per game. That team had explosive playmakers such as Cordarrelle Patterson, who set a Vols single-season record with 1,858 yards.

From Tennessee's starting lineup in the 45-6 win over No. 13 Northwestern in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, the Vols are scheduled to return eight defensive starters. They held a 10-win Wildcats team to 261 total yards with four sacks and held their Big Ten foe to 4-of-15 on third-down conversion attempts.

Shoop inherits a group that finished 2016 ranked No. 36 nationally in total defense (362 yards per game). It was a steadily improving group under former coordinator John Jancek's watch as he took over a defense that gave up 471 yards per game (110th in nation) and dropped that number to 418 his first year in Knoxville and then 364 in 2014.

The Orange & White defense allowed just 20 points per game, which ranked 16th in the land and fifth in the Southeastern Conference.

The team total of 30 sacks tied for 42nd in the country, with 12 interceptions (56th nationally) and 12 forced fumbles (tied for 44th nationally).

Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (105 tackles, 14 TFLs in 2015) and cornerback Cameron Sutton (3 TFLs, 6 pass breakups) are considering forgoing their final year of collegiate eligibility at Tennessee for the NFL Draft but have not yet declared. If both return, they bring a combined 63 starts with them.

Defensive end Derek Barnett may test the waters of the NFL Draft after 2016, but the Nashville native enters his junior season with 20 career sacks, which ranks tied for eighth all time with Steve White and 12 behind the record of 32 held by the late Reggie White.

The defensive backfield does have two holes to fill with the graduation of safeties LaDarrell McNeil and Brian Randolph. Randolph played in a record 53 games for Tennessee. With Malik Foreman coming on at nickelback and Micah Abernathy gaining experience this fall, it’s possible Rashaan Gaulden rolls back to safety where depth is an issue, even though Evan Berry and Todd Kelly Jr. do have game experience.

A coordinator with 27 years of coaching experience, including three seasons as Columbia's head coach (2003-05), that hasn't had a defense rank outside of the nation's 25 best in any of the last five years figures to be a kid in the candy store with this group. If he can match X’s and O’s with the orange and white talent and get the Vols back to Atlanta for the SEC championship, Shoop will be worth every penny of his $1.15 million annual salary (Jancek was getting $520,000 per year).

The IT three-deep only includes Vols scheduled to return for the 2016 season, including committed prospects. Tennessee is sure to add at least one safety before the recruiting cycle completes, but it’d be speculation on whom that may be.

FIRST TEAM

DE— Derek Barnett

DT— Shy Tuttle

DT— Kendal Vickers

DE— Corey Vereen

LB— Darrin Kirkland Jr.

LB— Jalen Reeves-Maybin

NB— Malik Foreman

CB— Justin Martin

S— Rashaan Gaulden

S— Todd Kelly Jr.

CB— Cameron Sutton

SECOND TEAM

DE— Kyle Phillips

DT— Alexis Johnson

DT— Kahlil McKenzie

DE— LaTroy Lewis

LB— Austin Smith

LB— Cortez McDowell

NB— Micah Abernathy

CB— D.J. Henderson

S— Evan Berry

S— Stephen Griffin

CB— Marquill Osborne

THIRD TEAM

DE— Dimarya Mixon

DT— Danny O’Brien

DT— Quay Picou

DE— Darrell Taylor

LB— Kenneth Bynum

LB— Quarté Sapp

NB— Darrell Miller

CB— Emmanuel Moseley

S— MaLeik Gatewood

S— Jauan Jennings
CB— Baylen Buchanan


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