HOOVER, Ala. — Alabama coach Nick Saban, regarded by many as the top defensive strategist of his era, paid Tennessee coordinators Bob Shoop and Mike DeBord the ultimate compliments on Wednesday.
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery in the college football world, and Saban said he studied Vanderbilt defensive film when Shoop was the Commodores’ coordinator from 2011-13.
“I’ve just always had a lot of respect for him for a long, long time, and guys that I respect I always watch their film against common opponents,” Saban said, “because if they’re doing something that we can pick up on and make efficient to us, we do.
“Bob has always been one of those guys that I’ve done that with, especially when he was at Vanderbilt and we were in the same league.”
Shoop, whose defenses at Vanderbilt and Penn State have finished top 25 nationally in each of the past five years, was hired by Tennessee in January.
Saban also gave high praise to DeBord, who was the offensive coordinator at Michigan (1997-99) during the final three years of Saban’s tenure as Michigan State head coach.
“He’s doing a fantastic job right now,” said Saban, whose national championship team was out-rushed only twice last season — by Georgia (193-189) and Tennessee (132-117).
“That’s one of the most difficult offenses to defend,” Saban said of the Vols. “They’ve got good players, but they have a great scheme and obviously Mike has contributed to that.”
Alabama has won nine straight in its rivalry against Tennessee, dating back to a 16-13 Vols home win over the Tide in 2006.
The teams meet in Knoxville on Oct. 15 this season.