Les Miles is deep within his hunt for a new defensive coordinator, reportedly arranging a handful of interviews in Dallas over the weekend, including Mike Stoops. Ross Dellenger from the Advocate, has since confirmed that Stoops "is not a serious candidate." Let's take some time to review some of the major rumored candidates and see what they bring to the table. Dellenger's report also references current Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, but states that Les has not contacted him yet. Shoop will be the first coach to kick off this series.
Shoop's rise through the coaching industry is impressive. He graduated from and played WR at Yale. Shoop moved into a GA role at Yale, then Virginia, before taking the defensive backs gig at Northeastern, then moving on to the defensive coordinator position at Yale. From Yale he moved to Villanova, then Army, before taking the DB coach job at Boston College.
After three seasons at Boston College, Shoop returned to his Ivy League roots and took on the head coaching gig at Columbia. He failed miserably, winning only seven games in three years. After being fired, Shoop returned to coaching defensive backs at UMass, before assuming the defensive coordinator position at William & Mary. After four seasons at William & Mary, James Franklin tapped him to be the defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt. From there, Shoop followed Franklin to Penn State last season.
Shoop is 48 years old, neither young nor old, and likely hungry to repair his reputation after a tough few seasons at Columbia.
Shoop's tenure as coordinator is perhaps more instructive than his time as a positional or head coach. A brief glance at his resume indicates that LSU, unequivocally, would be the best opportunity of his coaching career. Though Penn State is on equal or greater standing historically, they are also still rebounding from the the sanctions and perceptions emanating from the Sandusky scandal. As such, their talent level and depth aren't to championship levels currently.
First, let's take a look at what Shoop did in State College last season. The 2013 defense wasn't a strong unit, largely due to depth and talent issues. Here's a comparison of the Penn State defensive ranks in three advanced metrics from 2013 and 2014:
Now let's take a look at some raw numbers.
|Yards Per Play||5.3||4.27|
|Tackles for Loss||69||92|
Staggering improvement in every possible way. He took a mostly average defense and turned them, immediately, into one of the best units in the country. Mind you, he did all this while balancing their still thin depth chart and lackluster recruiting classes.
But what about his Vanderbilt defenses?
So, not nearly as impressive, though admittedly with far lesser talent, even considering a depleted Penn State. These aren't expressly bad numbers, either.
|Yards Per Play||4.82||4.75||5.07|
|Tackles for Loss||83||97||88|
Some good things to like here. The steady decline in numbers isn't great, but nothing dramatically fell off, either. Vanderbilt gave up 419 yards a game the year before Shoop arrived, and back over 400 this season,so he clearly improved the unit and kept it at respectable level.
Overall, pretty impressive results, particularly this season at Penn State.
Shoop himself describes his defense as
"based on two premises, relentless pursuit and never‑ending pressure. First thing I say to the guys all the time is everyone has a game plan until they get punched in the face. We throw the first punch and keep on punching. We make sure it's not the last punch and keep on punching. That's who we are."
His base defense is the 4-3 and he meshes over/under fronts based on scheme and personnel.
This is a slight variation to the 4-3 Over fronts commonly used by Chavis. The 4-3 Under is more in line with what Pete Carroll is doing in Seattle. You can read a more in-depth breakdown of it here, but here's a quick summary:
- Defensive line are generally playing one gap technique
- Mike and Will should accrue most of the tackles
- DL play as a one-tech, three-tech and five-tech, while the fourth "DL" plays a 7 or 9 tech
Shoop prefers to run quarters coverage or a two-deep shell, which he describes here:
If you’re asking my beliefs in a perfect world, the Tampa 4-3 (i.e. the Tampa 2 based out of the 4-3 alignment) is something I have always studied. Coach (Mike) Tomlin has had a great affect on me when he was at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s now the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers and he’s a William & Mary graduate, so he and I have spent a great deal of time together.
These are the fundamentals of what he believes, but the most encouraging thing is his willingness to adapt to personnel.
"We try to tailor our schemes to what our players are capable of doing rather than try to fit them into a scheme," Shoop said. "If that means in today’s games a team is two backs and one tight end or one back and two tight ends, grind it out football, maybe we’ll be a more traditional, four down linemen, three linebackers, four DBs."
And being versatile with the same personnel:
"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."
This is encouraging. Very similar to what Pete Carroll preaches in that if you ask a player to do something he cannot do, that's on the coach, not the player. Your scheme should be built on the talent on hand. This can also bring added versatility to the recruiting landscape. Players like Denzel Devall, who previously weren't ideal fits in the Chavis scheme, can now be assured they have a home. Chavis does an excellent job of identifying talents who fit his scheme, generally speaking, but removing that limitation expands LSU's recruiting options.
According to 247 Sports, Shoop has been responsible for six commitments, serving as the primary recruiter on four of them, while at PSU. I can't be certain how accurate this data is, but generally speaking, that's a pretty good number in just over a season.
That said, recruiting isn't really his forte. If I had to guess, I'd say he'd give us more than Chavis did, but he's hardly an ace there. His recruiting is probably best described as "adequate."
Biggest question mark here is how do you shakeup the staff to fit Shoop. He's a DB coach by trade, having never coached another position. Corey Raymond is arguably the staff's second most valuable recruiter right now, so you simply don't shuttle him out the door. Raymond, also, is a DB-only coach. Brick Haley adds some versatility with his experience in coaching both DL or LB. Could Shoop coach another spot? Possibly.
An alternative solution may be to give the LBs fully over to Peveto, and have Shoop coach safeties, while Raymond coaches CBs. Currently Shoop is the DC and safeties coach at Penn State.
Shoop is a guy you should be excited about, if he's the hire. At 48, he's young and still rising. His willingness to adapt scheme to personnel is particularly encouraging. I think he would be able to immediately pick up where Chavis left off and continue the strong tradition. The defense likely wouldn't look dramatically different, but could feature some fresh looks. Like Chavis, Shoop has a 3rd down rush package that he calls his "chaos package." I do think we'd see a bit more versatility scheme wise, than we did from Chavis.
He doesn't give much in terms of recruiting, but neither did Chavis. Would he come? Is Les interested? Those are probably the biggest question marks. His qualifications speak for themselves.