March 1, 2018 10:51:26 AM
STARKVILLE -- The roughest six-week stretch of Bob Shoop's coaching career -- the final six weeks of his tenure as Tennessee's defensive coordinator under Butch Jones -- could have put a stain on what was a successful FBS coaching career before it. It had no effect on Joe Moorhead.
Once the end at Tennessee for Shoop and company was solidified and Moorhead's hire as Mississippi State's head coach was solidified, Moorhead reached out to Shoop. Shoop said Moorhead told him to, "sit tight."
Shoop knew to take Moorhead at his word. He was rewarded with the defensive coordinator job.
When Shoop was introduced Wednesday, he outlined why he was willing to wait for the prospect of coaching for MSU and under Moorhead.
"We wanted to go to a place with great culture, and I find that to be the case here at Mississippi State," Shoop said of he and his wife, Maura. "I watched the guys play on film, they play hard; I watched them prepare for the bowl game with a skelton crew, they practiced hard; I watched them in the weight room and morning workouts. There's a great culture here."
As for coaching for Moorhead, the ties go back to childhood. Both of them are products of the Pittsburgh area, Shoop from Oakmont and Moorhead from Pittsburgh proper. Shoop pointed out he is older than Moorhead and didn't associate with him much growing up for that reason, but did intersect in youth basketball circles with Moorhead's older brother, Merv.
Both Moorhead and Shoop got the thrill of coaching for the in-state powerhouse: Moorhead was Penn State's offensive coordinator for the last two years and Shoop was Penn State's defensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015.
Both were lured away by the call of the Southeastern Conference. Shoop said it was what inspired him to leave Penn State for Tennessee, and now he will keep his SEC coaching days alive at MSU.
When it comes to the product Shoop will ultimately put on the field, he said he has always believed in defenses based on personnel more than those based on scheme, but his past is dominated by defenses featuring four down linemen. As he reviewed his current personnel, which he evaluated as containing a deep defensive line and a shallow linebacking corps, more of the same seems to be on the way.
"My base is more out of a four-down than a three-down; however, in today's game with all the substitution packages, teams playing three and four wide receivers, a lot of teams are playing nickel concepts," Shoop said. "Basically a four-down, but it doesn't mean we can't stretch to a three-down at times."
The exact formation remains to be determined, but one thing is a given: pressure.
"What's non-negotiable to us is we're going to be in your face, I truly believe in that," Shoop said. "We're built on relentless pursuit and never-ending pressure, those are the things we talk about all the time."
Jones relishes new role
Jones may have spent the last six years as South Alabama's head coach, but he's effectively gathered several years of experience as a special teams coordinator.
He more or less took on the duties of such a role near the end of his tenure with the Jaguars, so his new responsibilities with MSU will be nothing new to him.
"I did it all the last three years. Six years ago I started with the return teams and it evolved into the whole thing," Jones said. "I was bored to death at practice; I was tired of being a CEO and being a motivator-only. It started with letting me take the kickoff return team, and I kept getting more and more."
In having special teams coordinator as his one and only title, Jones is part of the new wave of college football coaching. This is the first season in which the NCAA will allow teams to have a 10th on-field coach, where the previous limit was nine; many schools have elected to use that 10th spot to hire a special teams coordinator, a job that used to be handed to a position coach forced to do double duty.
MSU, for example, had running backs coach Greg Knox as its special teams coordinator before he took over as interim head coach.
"Usually special teams coordinators had to also coach a position: tight ends, wide receivers, what have you. I always wondered why they did that because they had such a big job to do," Jones said. "I think coaches realize now, especially with the addition of a 10th coach, it's really smart to let one guy do it because it's such a critical part."
Several ties to Shoop in defensive staff
Shoop may have taken on two retentions from the previous MSU staff, defensive line coach Brian Baker and cornerbacks coach Terrell Buckley, but the support staff around him is one that knows him well.
Shoop named three in the support staff he has worked with in the past. AJ Jackson is the assistant defensive line coach and worked with Shoop on the Penn State staff; Nyeem Wartman was a linebacker for Shoop at Penn State and will be the assistant linebackers coach; Mark Powell is a graduate assistant for the secondary and the grandson of Carmen Cozza, the longtime Yale coach that coached Shoop in college.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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