Vols Introduce New Defensive Coordinator Bob Shoop and LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin Returning For Senior Year
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The strength of the Tennessee brand drew Bob Shoop’s attention to the Volunteers years ago, a call from Butch Jones brought him to Knoxville to stay.
Jones introduced the Vols’ new defensive coordinator on Tuesday afternoon, but the seeds that led to Shoop taking the job were planted five years ago when he moved to the Volunteer state to coach at Vanderbilt.
“Having lived in Nashville for three years, you can’t help but become aware of the most recognizable brand in college athletics, the Power T,” Shoop said. “You grow to realize that Tennessee football is a way of life and that was appealing to me.”
Shoop spent three seasons, 2011-13, with the Commodores before following the staff to Penn State for the last two years. In each of those five seasons, his defenses finished in the top 25 nationally. Those rankings came despite taking over units that could have been labeled as “rebuilding projects,” including a Nittany Lion roster still under scholarship restrictions.
His Penn State unit ranked 15th in the country in total defense in 2015, allowing only 324.3 yards per game. PSU was 10th in the nation against the pass, giving up just 174.5 yards per game.
“It would have taken something special to get me to leave there,” Shoop said.
And he found that something special when Jones made the call.
“Tennessee is one of those jobs that you always have in the back of your mind,” said Shoop. “It’s like being the GM of an NFL team and watching a player and saying ‘If I every have a chance to get that player, I’m going to get that player.’ After being in Nashville for three years and competing against Tennessee and watched Tennessee football and been in Neyland Stadium, there’s only a handful of places that I’ve coached where I walked in a got chills. This is as big time as big time gets to me.”
Shoop’s defenses pained the picture of exactly what Jones was looking for in filling the defensive coordinator spot.
“When you look at their style of play, their fundamentals, their details, the way they play team defense, they’re a defense that never hurts themselves,” Jones said. “They made you earn every yard that they get. We talk about fighting for blades of grass. When you play a ‘Bob Shoop’ defense, you’re fighting for blades of grass on every single snap.”
The defense that he inherits at Tennessee is not a rebuilding project, something that Shoop found just as appealing as the power of the Tennessee brand. He takes over a defense that is ready-made for success and has already experienced plenty of it. The Vols finished 36th in the NCAA in total defense, but held seven opponents to 21 or fewer points, four to 10 or less.
It is bolstered further by the announcement by linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin earlier on Tuesday that he would return for his senior season. Shoop had a good idea that Reeves-Maybin’s announcement would be coming, he spent much of Monday night’s national championship game exchanging text messages with Tennessee’s leading tackler in 2015.
“I think this team is poised to compete for SEC Championships and playoff berths,” Shoop said. “Spending time with Coach Jones and his staff validated those feelings and I felt like I was a good fit and could fit in and help the program get to the next level.”
Getting there requires attention to detail, something that starts with one five-letter suffix.
“I’m about the ‘ships,’” Shoop said. “Relationships and championships.”