KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Year 2. That is what Bob Shoop has his focus on.
Year 1 did not go as planned defensively. Injuries were largely — but not entirely — to blame. The Vols finished 95th nationally in total defense in 2016 (230.7 passing yards per game, 218.54 rushing).
The former Vanderbilt and Penn State defensive coordinator spoke of his second spring practice season at Tennessee, saying “experience is the greatest teacher.”
The experience of last season and getting to know his players will help this spring as he can coordinate them under new assistant coaches who have joined Butch Jones’ retooled staff.
“I’m not looking around trying to figure out if I’m in the right spot, doing the right drill, if this is how coach (Butch Jones) wants things done,” Shoop said following the Vols’ fifth spring practice. “Every time change happens, it can kind of create anxiety, but it can also be refreshing.”
The refreshing part is having former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke coming in as the defensive line coach and Charlton Warren coming in from North Carolina as Tennessee’s defensive backs coach.
Shoop is in a good situation in turning the defense around with the new additions.
“For me personally, he’s (Hoke) been a great ally and it’s been a lot of fun working for him so far. He is a guy that’s been a head coach – a Coach of the Year in the MAC, Mountain West and in the Big Ten,” Shoop said.
“He was the defensive coordinator at Oregon when they struggled last year – he’s seen the good and the bad in the profession and has a tremendous amount of experience. He has been a great mentor and really helped me out personally and is doing a great job of being a leader and mentor to our players up front and all the players on defense – and all the players on the team.”
Likewise, Warren correlates what Jones and Team 121 are talking about in terms of details, accountability and toughness.
“Charlton Warren has done an outstanding job and has fit right into our culture. He’s a very impressive person, an Air Force Academy graduate, and he could be successful in just about anything he wanted to do,” Shoop said. “He’s been a great role model and mentor in that defensive backs room.”
Senior linebacker Cortez McDowell talked about the difference in Shoop and his approach this spring from a season ago.
“I notice a big difference,” he said. “His method and the way he’s communicated with us is a lot different. It’s a lot more teaching, a lot more communication between us and him and other coaches in the room. We discuss situations on the field and how we can work it out in communicating the best way we can.”
The Vols still have big holes to fill, at every level of the defense. The new talent will be on display Saturday during the spring game. Shoop will find the players and believes in Year 2, he has the system and staff to make it all work.