KNOXVILLE — Bob Shoop feels very good about his so-called “Orange Swarm” defense in the early goings of fall camp, and that’s probably why he speaks so freely of the competition at the positions.
Shoop said on Wednesday he plans on playing several players throughout the season, and that his defenders know they will receive the playing time they deserve.
“At the linebacker position, (Darrin) Kirkland and (Jalen Reeves-) Maybin have set the pace,” Shoop said. “Their pursuit to the ball from sideline to sideline has been impressive.”
Shoop has spent the offseason getting familiar again with the SEC after spending the past two seasons at Penn State.
So how much has the league changed since he was the defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt (2011-13)?
“The game itself has evolved,” Shoop said. “I joked in 2011 that half the teams in the country made over 400 (yards) and there was 30 or 40 teams that held teams under 300 yards a game. In the last years that statistic has changed.
“How many teams averaged over 400 yards per game (last season), and only a handful of teams that gave up less than 300 yards per game as snaps have increased,” he said. “The style of play has increased with the tempo, the spread offenses and the advent of the RPOs (run-pass options), it’s a challenge for us as defensive coaches to try to keep up ti keep up with the evolution of offenses.”
Shoop invited the media to look up the numbers, and the NCAA statistics revealed that in 2011, 45 of the 120 teams averaged 400 or more yards per game.
On defense in 2011, only eight teams held offenses to 300 or fewer yards per game.
Last season, 64 of 127 teams averaged 400 or more yards per game on offense, and only five teams held opponents to 300 or fewer yards.
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee for SEC Country and lives in Knoxville.