In his second season at Tennessee, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop needs to improve on a disappointing opening season.
It was so disappointing, he doesn’t want to talk about it.
“I’ve been coaching a long time I don’t think I’ve seen a group of guys with a bigger chip on their shoulder and more determined,” Shoop said during media availability on Friday afternoon.
Shoop said he doesn’t want to get into what went wrong last year. He wants to build on what went right. And in his eyes, the defense has already made major strides this offseason.
“They’ve put themselves in a good position to be a really good unit,” Shoop said. “A team that our fan base expects. Now it’s just a matter of taking it to camp.”
Not much went right for Tennessee last year defensively. It all culminated with an embarrassing display at Vanderbilt to finish the year in which the Vols were torched for over 400 passing yards and a loss in Nashville.
The Vols ranked 95th in the NCAA in total defense last season. Shoop’s defense gave up 449.2 yards per game last year, but he was at least proud of his team’s mentality towards the end of the season.
“The thing we did a good job of was checking our egos at the door,” Shoop added. “We knew what we had to do to win games. To me, it’s understanding that the bottom line is winning games. It doesn’t matter if you win 49-42 or 7-6.”
Defensive improvements this offseason have started in the weight room. Shoop credited strength coach Rock Gullickson for massive improvements this winter and spring. He specifically said that the Vols’ previous strength coach, Michael Szerszen, wasn’t doing anything wrong. But Gullickson has taken things to the next level.
On a staff with many former head coaches, Shoop says that Gullickson fits right in.
“I think we’re stronger, and I think we’re better conditioned than we were a year ago at this time,” Shoop stated. “I think that will help us be better at defending the run. Rock is a pro. In many ways, Rock’s been a head coach for many years.”
The biggest challenge for Shoop will be replacing Derek Barnett and Cam Sutton. He credited both Jonathan Konbo and Justin Martin for stepping into more prominent roles this offseason.
“Eight of the last nine SEC East champions have led the conference in sacks,” Shoop said. “Getting pressure on the quarterback is a big thing.”
Tennessee’s biggest improvement needs to be on the defensive line, the area the team arguably struggled the most last season. With fall camp just around the corner, we’ll get a closer look at a very different looking defense soon.
Here’s the full video of Shoop’s press conference.
Bob Shoop talks to the media https://t.co/alWUGeg1Pj
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) July 21, 2017