STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – With less than three weeks until the start of the first spring under head coach Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State’s defensive and special teams staff met with members of the media to preview the coming months.
Defensive coordinator and safeties coach Bob Shoop enters his sixth year in the SEC and takes over a roster featuring eight returning starters, two first-team All-SEC defensive linemen (Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat) and the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl MVP in safety Mark McLaurin.
“I watched these guys play on film,” Shoop said. “They play hard. I watched them prepare for the bowl game with a skeleton crew. They practiced hard. I’ve watched them in the weight room. I’ve watched our morning workouts. There is a great culture here, and I want to be around good people. I feel that way not just about the team and coaching staff but everyone I have met that has been affiliated with Mississippi State Athletics and everyone in Starkville.”
Shoop discussed his defensive philosophy, which is based on personnel.
“Rather than recruit players to fit a scheme, you try to tailor your scheme to what your players can do,” he said. “The analogy I used is LeBron James in basketball. What position does he play? He plays them all. If you have LeBron James on your team, you are going to utilize him in different ways than you might use a different player.”
Shoop and the Bulldogs open spring practice on Tuesday, March 20. They will practice for five straight weeks leading up to the annual Maroon and White Spring Game as part of Super Bulldog Weekend on Saturday, April 21. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m. in Davis Wade Stadium and admission is free.
Below are quotes from the press conference:
Defensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach Bob Shoop
February 28, 2018
“I have been here since early December, right before that first recruiting weekend. I have really enjoyed getting to know the staff and getting to know the players. Coming from my background, I was a I-AA guy for a long, long time. James Franklin got the head coaching job at Vanderbilt and gave a I-AA coach the chance to be a defensive coordinator in the SEC. In our three years there, we went to three straight bowls and had two nine-win seasons, two Top 25 finishes, always had Top 20 defenses, put a bunch of guys in the NFL. James had a chance to go to Penn State. It was a wonderful experience. I went back and coached at Penn State for two years with coach and went to two straight bowls. After getting a taste of SEC football, I really aspired to get back to the SEC and Coach (Butch) Jones gave me a chance at Tennessee. Expectations are high at all of these SEC schools. They expect a little more. We won the Music City Bowl that year and had a No. 1 draft pick in Derek Barnett. Looking back on it, with all of the injuries we had, I thought it was a pretty good coaching job. This past year, we got off to a 3-1 start, got crushed by Georgia, lost 15-9 to South Carolina, lost to Alabama and we were 3-4. There is pressure at all of these SEC jobs. These last six or seven weeks of that season were probably the toughest I have ever had to deal with professionally. My wife and I when we talked about our future, there were only a couple of boxes that we wanted checked. We wanted to go to a place with great culture, and I found that to be the case at Mississippi State from Mr. (John) Cohen to Jared Benko to Joe Moorhead and the staff and the players. Coach (Dan) Mullen coached these guys to eight straight bowls. I watched these guys play on film. They play hard. I watched them prepare for the bowl game with a skeleton crew. They practiced hard. I’ve watched them in the weight room. I’ve watched our morning workouts. There is a great culture here, and I want to be around good people. I feel that way not just about the team and coaching staff but everyone I have met that has been affiliated with Mississippi State Athletics and everyone in Starkville. I am appreciative of this opportunity and I look forward to working with you guys. I look forward to being a part of this team, this town, and this family.”
On the hiring process with Joe Moorhead…
“Joe and I have known each other for a long time. We’re both from Pittsburgh, really about 10 minutes apart. I am a lot older than Joe. I am almost as old as his older brother. I didn’t know Joe that well as a young person. I knew Joe professionally. When Coach Franklin made a change at the offensive coordinator at Penn State, I went to him and said you remember when we met Joe Moorhead. He’s a guy who is the head coach at Fordham. He’s a guy we maybe ought to think about. I am very, very proud that worked out for Joe, and Joe really did a great job the last two years with that offense at Penn State. After two years at Tennessee obviously Coach (Butch) Jones was relieved and we were all kind of relieved of our responsibilities, Joe reached out and said listen don’t worry about these two years. I’ve got this situation at Mississippi State. I’ve seen what you have done at Vanderbilt. I know the kind of person you are. I obviously knew Joe. I knew Charles Huff on the staff. He and I both worked together on the staff at Penn State. I’ve known Luke Getsy for a long time. Those were the guys I knew best on the staff. When he reached and when you are in a situation like we were at Tennessee, you’re anxious. I was very, very confident to sit tight and it was going to work out. I am very appreciative to Joe of this opportunity, and I look forward to making the most of it. I really like the staff he has assembled. Good teachers, men, role models to the young men on our team. Good husbands. Good feathers. I really like our defensive staff. I was really excited that we were able to retain Bake (Brian Baker) and really excited that we able to retain Buck (Terrell Buckley). They have been a great resource for me, learning the lay of the land. I think you guys will really like Tem Lukabu, our linebackers coach we have hired from the (San Francisco) 49ers.”
On describing his defensive philosophy to the fan base…
“What we are striving to have is more personnel-driven rather than scheme-driven. The unique thing here, there has been so much stability with this team with Coach (Dan) Mullen but also instability in regard to the defensive staff. The guys who are fifth-year players on this team, I am their fifth defensive coordinator, which is kind of strange. The guys who are fourth-year players, I’m their fourth defensive coordinator. Between Manny Diaz, Geoff Collins, Peter Sirmon and Coach (Todd) Grantham, it’s kind of unusual. They have seen a lot of different schemes and a lot of different identities. Rather than recruit players to fit a scheme, you try to tailor your scheme to what your players can do. The analogy I used is LeBron James in basketball. What position does he play? Well he plays them all. If you have LeBron James on your team, you are going to utilize him in different ways than you might use a different player. What is non-negotiable, is we are going to be in your face. I truly believe in that. That is something that is important to me. We are built on relentless pursuit and never-ending pressure. That’s what we talk about all the time. We fell short at times to that style of play at Tennessee. I don’t think we were as consistent as I liked us to be. The things that are important to me are having the ability to stop the run and having the ability to eliminate chunk plays and having the ability to create takeaways. Be disruptive. Tackles for loss and sacks are something that’s important to me. We must continuously be disruptive on the field. The phrase we have adopted on the defensive side of the ball is hunt. HTB – hunt the ball. We want to hunt the ball in everything we are doing. Thus far in the handful of weeks working with the guys, that’s the mindset and the vision we have tried to create for those guys. I am looking forward to having that vision play out on the field this spring as we lay the foundation for this team.”
On the personnel on this team …
“I am a pretty lucky guy. I think we have pretty good depth upfront. Obviously, everyone talks about Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat and deservedly so. They are really, really good football players. And my experience, is they have been just as good people too. I think guys this year are going to be really excited to watch a guy like Gerri Green. I think he is going to be playing in a little different role than maybe what he played before. There’s a bunch of guys upfront where we can run eight, nine or 10 guys up front. We have as much depth upfront as any place I have ever been, and I don’t feel like there is a significant drop off between those guys. In the secondary, I feel the same way. There’s great competition at the corner position. Obviously (Jamal) Peters, (Cameron) Dantzler and (Chris) Rayford played a lot last year. Tyler Williams is a guy that redshirted and has a great deal of potential. There are some other young players. Marcus Murphy has made a great impression as an early enrollee these first few weeks on campus. At the safety position, it’s a unique situation where you have some good, quality depth there. Mark McLaurin has had a good season to me. When I observe him, he’s taken his bowl game and it’s helped him grow. His confidence has grown significantly. I didn’t know him prior to this but I get the impression that he is a different person. He’s taken a leadership role to the next level and it’s been exciting. Brandon Bryant has played a lot of football for us. Brian Cole is a guy who did not play last year but is a junior college guy who played some football at Michigan who has some promise at corner, nickel or the safety position as well. Linebacker maybe not as deep but the players that we have there are really impressive. I really like Erroll Thompson. I think he was the leading freshman (linebacker) tackler in the SEC last year. I really enjoyed getting to know him. As the middle linebacker, he’d be the signal caller of the defense. Obviously, Leo Lewis and Willie Gay have played a lot and are really talented individuals and have made a good first impression. The impression has been three winter workouts and a whole bunch of weight training sessions and a handful of meetings. I think the pieces are in place with some potential to be a really good unit.”