Bob Shoop's interview process with Butch Jones Friday was unique, to say the least.
Throw the formalities of a sit-down aside. Shoop spent 12 hours on Friday holed up in a room with his potential new colleagues dissecting just about everything they possibly could about the Vols' defense.
"Coach locked me in a room with the defensive staff and said, 'You guys figure this thing out,'" Shoop said at his introductory press conference Tuesday. "With [defensive line coach Steve] Strip[ling], [linebackers coach Tommy] Thig[pen], [secondaries coach] Willie [Martinez], and it reinvigorated me. It was great. We really enjoyed it. The chemistry was great and I was sold."
That budding chemistry was just one of the many reasons why Shoop opted to leave Penn State and his home of Pennsylvania to take over a talented defensive unit at Tennessee. Shoop spent three seasons at Vanderbilt and built relationships with plenty of current Vols, including star linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who announced Tuesday he was staying for his senior season. Couple that with his affinity for the national brand of Tennessee and its ability to compete for an SEC championship in 2016 and Shoop was sold almost before the door closed.
“I like the fact that this isn’t a rebuild," he said. "I think the parts are in place for this to be a championship unit. I really think that. My man is sitting somewhere in here, Jalen Reeves-Maybin. He’s the undisputed leader of this group. He’s a special guy, and he knows that. We’ve got big time players up front. Derek Barnett’s a guy I’ve had a relationship with from being at Vanderbilt. Cam Sutton is certainly a premier corner, and there’s a lot, lot more."
The first-year Tennessee defensive coordinator cited all these things as to what drew him to work under Jones in Knoxville, but it's what Shoop will bring to the Vols that has fans swooning. Shoop has presided over five straight Top 25 defenses at both Vanderbilt and Penn State without a fraction of the talent he'll inherit heading into 2016. Through a blend of fundamental focus and calculated risk, Shoop has become one of the most successful defensive coordinators in the game.
“Our formula for success, it’s stood the test of time, whether it’s the Tennessee Titans, whether it’s the Vols, whether it’s the local high school," Shoop said. "Stop the run. We’re very committed to stopping the run, eliminating any and all explosive plays, and create takeaways. That’s an area we think we can do better in. We want to be disruptive. We want to get after the quarterback. We want to create tackles for loss, something we were very good at last year at Penn State."
The Nittany Lions finished sixth in the NCAA by averaging eight tackles for loss a game and were one of the least penalized teams in college football. That's been the modus operandi for Shoop's coaching style since he broke into coaching as a defensive backs coach at Northeastern in 1991 — smart, aggressive football tinged with an almost-robotic repetition.
"He's obviously very sought after, and I think that it has a direct correlation with him being a great teacher, motivator, leader, recruiter, and an even better person," Jones said. "I've had the opportunity to compete against him on two occasions, and I left very impressed with their style of play, the way they attacked, the effort they gave, the details, and the fundamentals that they played with in every game that we saw."
There are still some unknowns. Shoop doesn't know if he'll be coaching in the booth or on the field, or if he'll reside over a specific position in addition to his job as defensive coordinator
When it comes to what kind of defense Bob Shoops wants to run, though, he's got the answer already lined up.
“What will we be? We’ll be an in-your-face style of defense that’s built on relentless pursuit and never-ending pressure," Shoop said. "Coach [Jones] also said, one of the things we talked about a lot was techniques over tactics – really coaching fundamentals, really coaching techniques, really coaching Football 101, and I look forward to doing that this spring."