Penn State Defense Clicking Under Coach Bob Shoop
The relationship between coach and player is a bond like no other, and is often a major factor affecting on-field performance.
In just its first year, the relationship that has developed between Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and his players is special, and so far, the unit’s play reflects that relationship.
And that’s been huge for a team with a disappointing offense. Led by a former blue-chip recruit coming off a remarkable 2013 campaign, the offense has plunged into mediocrity. On the other side of the ball, though, the Nittany Lion defense ranks No. 1 nationally against the run, and plays each down with a certain passion and intensity that reminds fans of the Paul Posluszny/Dan Connor days.
That tenacity is stressed by Bob Shoop, the first-year defensive coordinator, brother of Purdue offensive coordinator John Shoop, and beloved by both his players and fans. Shoop was part of the coaching staff that rescued Vanderbilt from the cellar of the SEC, and helped turn the Commodores into a legitimate SEC East threat in his time. Now, Shoop boasts a defensive unit that ranks sixth in points against per game.
Moreover, his players seem to be playing for him. This defense is playing inspired football, and it seems that one of its largest motivators is Shoop.
“It’s fun, it’s fun when you’re good,” said safety Adrian Amos. “The defense is playing well, and Coach Shoop is making the perfect play calls. We’re just clicking this year.”
Clicking is an understatement for this unit. The little things, such as communication in the secondary and hitting assignments, have been running as smoothly as ever. The cohesive attention to the fine details is a testament to the job Shoop has done to prepare his unit for the task at hand.
Linebacker Nyeem Wartman emphasized the team’s level of preparation for each game, and the amazing job Shoop does to have the defense ready to go.
“It’s very satisfying, because Coach Shoop draws up a great game plan, and we just execute it,” Wartman said. “He gets us prepared every week, and it’s nice having a defense that knows they’re going to fight for each other, and to have a coach to put us in the right position.”
The defense doesn’t make as many mental mistakes, either. For example, against Indiana, the team knew Tevin Coleman was going to be the Hoosiers’ main offensive force, and the unit did everything in its power to keep him at bay. The other characteristic that sticks out about this unit is that no matter the circumstance, and regardless of opponent, the defense fights like hell and never backs down. The game that those players had against Ohio State was one of the most inspiring performances of the year for the Nittany Lions. The defense was on point, and exhibited a synergy like no other. Every down was a battle, and there is little doubt that every player on the Buckeyes’ offense was hurting by the end.
Shoop has done wonders for his players. He has helped rejuvenate defensive end Deion Barnes, who is leaps and bounds ahead of where he was last season, and looks more like the player who won Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2012. He has helped mold Anthony Zettel into one of the most dominant interior linemen in the country, and has allowed Mike Hull to take the nation by storm.
It is an absolute shame that the team’s overall record doesn’t reflect what a marvelous job the defense has done. In the long run under Shoop, Penn State looks set to return to the glory days of hard nosed linebackers and dominant defense.
Teams just play better for those whom they genuinely love and respect, and it is clear that Bob Shoop is doing something right with his defense. Slowly but surely, Bob Shoop is setting a new precedent for defense in Happy Valley.