Bob Shoop has had little time to evaluate his players and says Penn State will adapt its defense to its personnel when the time comes.
Two things the Nittany Lions’ new co-defensive coordinator promised, though, are relentless pursuit and never-ending pressure. That will be Penn State’s defensive identity.
“A mentor of mine once said a philosophy is who you think you are,” Shoop said. “An identity is who others see you as.”
Shoop served as Vanderbilt’s defensive coordinator under James Franklin from 2011-13 after coaching for four seasons at William & Mary. In two seasons under Shoop — 2011 and 2012 — Vanderbilt defense finished in the top 50 in defensive efficiency, which measures a team’s defense based on opponent-adjusted possession success. The Commodores ranked 23rd in the nation in yards allowed per game in 2013, as well.
Top 50 isn’t good enough at Penn State, Shoop says. He and the rest of Franklin’s staff came to Happy Valley to be national contenders.
“At the end of the day there is only one championship defense, and we came here to build a Big Ten Championship and national championship caliber defense,” Shoop said. “That is the only thing we know.”
As part of the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State, though, the Lions won’t compete for a Big Ten or national title for another two seasons. Scholarship numbers were also reduced — although they’ll be restored by 2016 — causing a lack of depth on the defensive side last season. At one point, Penn State was playing with about 60 scholarship players.
Shoop says having guys who can play multiple positions and schemes that are adaptable based on personnel would help them combat that possible lack of numbers in the next few years.
“As I said, one of the things I think we do a really good job with is keeping our terminology easy and utilizing guys as interchangeable parts and stemming out of a 4 3 to a 3 4,” Shoop said. “And doing things like that and keeping the same guys on the field.”
Shoop will be the man behind the operation as it relates to switching those interchangeable parts. He spends gameday in the press box and prefers to look at things from the analytical, X’s and O’s side.
Brent Pry, however, has a number of roles. He’s the assistant head coach, co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, but Franklin insists that titles don’t mean all that much.
“Everybody's going to have their hands in,” Franklin said. “Everybody's going to be pulling the rope in the same direction. It's not about who gets the credit.”
Steven Petrella can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @steve_petrella.