Bob Shoop’s interview was intense.
Tennessee’s new defensive coordinator was locked in a room for 12 hours with the Vols’ other defensive coaches to see if the group would mesh. Apparently, everything worked out. Shoop was officially named Tennessee’s defensive coordinator after leaving Penn State last week.
“It reinvigorated me,” Shoop said of the mini-coaches convention during his introductory press conference on Tuesday. “It was great. We really enjoyed it. The chemistry was great and I was sold.”
The feeling was mutual.
The Vols will pay Shoop $1.15 million annually for three years. The deal was put together quickly with approval by athletic director Dave Hart last week.
“As far as the three-year contract, I’m just appreciative,” Shoop said. “I don’t know the past or the future. I’m just appreciative for what Mr. Hart and Coach Jones have provided for me and my family.”
That contract, however, comes with a caveat. Shoop has accepted responsibility to pay Penn State an $800,000 buyout. Shoop declined to discuss the matter in depth.
“The buyout is something I’m going to resolve with Penn State and I’d like to keep it like that,” he said.
Shoop’s transition should be easier than most. Through his time recruiting at Vanderbilt, Shoop got to know several current Tennessee players, including linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, defensive ends Derek Barnett and Kyle Phillips and defensive backs Rashaan Gaulden and Todd Kelly, Jr.
“It played a significant part,” Shoop said of those relationships factoring into his decision to come to Tennessee.
Shoop said he and Reeves-Maybin, who announced he would return for his senior season on Tuesday, are constantly texting each other.
“We talk about old times and talk about how excited we are to be together,” Shoop said.
Shoop said Tennessee was appealing, in part, because it was not a program in rebuilding mode. Shoop seemed to infer that cornerback Cameron Sutton would return for his senior season when he named players he could depend on next season. Whether that was the case or just a slip of the tongue, enticing Sutton back to Tennessee has to be high on Shoop’s to-do list. Shoop went public with his sales pitch.
“The thing that I do well is I identify a player’s strengths and put him in a position to make plays,” Shoop said. “If you look at my record over the last seven years, I think I’ve produced a lot of players that have gone on to have success in the NFL. I love the teaching aspect of things. I can help players develop and take their players to the next level.
“If Cam gives us the chance, I think we can help.”
Shoop’s role hasn’t been completely defined. Jones said he could coach linebackers or help with defensive backs. Nevertheless, after a season of near misses and marked improvement, Shoop will be expected to produce immediately.
“I think this team is poised to compete for SEC championships and playoff berths,” Shoop said. “We here to build a championship-caliber defense. Let me be clear on that.”