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The Case For Defensive Coordinator Bob Shoop, Broyles Award Snub

For the third time this season, a member of the Penn State football team was left off the list of finalists for a national award. This time, it was defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, who was not selected as one of the five finalists for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s best assistant coach.

Shoop was nominated for the award last week by the The Rotary Club of Little Rock along with 40 other coaches, but didn’t make the cut when the finalists were announced Tuesday.

Here are the five finalists for the award. The 2014 winner will be announced on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

  • Lane Kiffin – University of Alabama, Offensive Coordinator
  • Dave Steckel – University of Missouri, Defensive Coordinator
  • Tom Herman – Ohio State University, Offensive Coordinator
  • Scott Frost – University of Oregon, Offensive Coordinator
  • Doug Meacham – Texas Christian University, Co-Offensive Coordinator

Now, you may notice there’s only one defensive coordinator among the final five, and that’s to be expected. However, while the national media tends to side with the offense when it comes to choosing the nation’s best player (Charles Woodson is the only primarily defensive player to win the Heisman, but he also played wide receiver and returned kicks), the Broyles Award has almost exclusively recognized the defensive side of the ball. Of the 18 winners since the inaugural award was handed out in 1996, all but six have been defensive coordinators, including the last three. Last year, Michigan State’s Pat Narduzzi was named the winner for building the nation’s third-best scoring defense at 13.2 points per game.

The argument can be made for Shoop to be included among the finalists, and his snub may be the most egregious of the season. For fielding a team with 20 fewer scholarships, Shoop has made the best with the limited talent he’s had to work with. Penn State has the second-youngest team in college football, and featured only four seniors on defense (safeties Ryan Keiser and Adrian Amos, linebacker Mike Hull, and lineman C.J. Olanyian).

It’s difficult enough to turn a talented group into a dominant unit, but Shoop has had to rely on young players to quickly learn his defensive schemes and implement them effectively on the field. It’s been a “next man up” mentality this season, and Shoop has proven he’s more than capable of developing young talent. When Keiser went down with a season-ending injury, freshman Marcus Allen stepped in with 11 tackles and two pass breakups against the Buckeyes. When cornerback Trevor Williams was sidelined with an injury against Temple, freshmen Christian Campbell and Grant Haley each tallied an interception, with Haley returning his pick 30 yards for a touchdown.

Despite inheriting a unit that allowed more than 380 yards per game and ranked 59th nationally in scoring defense, surrendering 26.2 points per game, Shoop has turned the Nittany Lions into one of the better defenses in the country.

Penn State Defense

Total Defense: 3rd nationally (269.8 yards allowed per game)

Scoring Defense: 9th nationally (17.7 points allowed per game)

Rushing Defense: 1st nationally (84.8 yards allowed per game)

Passing Defense: 12th nationally (185 yards allowed per game)

Third Down Defense: 6th nationally (30.1 percent)

Tackles For Loss: 20th nationally (87 tackles for loss, 7.3 tackles for loss per game)

Sacks: 30th nationally (30 sacks, 2.5 sacks per game)

Interceptions: T-12th nationally (16 interceptions)

Penn State ended the regular season as one of only four teams to finish in the top 10 in total defense, scoring defense, and rushing defense, joining Clemson, Wisconsin, and Croke Park Classic foe Central Florida.

Do you know which team didn’t appear in the Top 10 in any of these categories? Dave Steckel’s Missouri Tigers.

Just for fun, let’s see how the Tigers stack up against the Nittany Lions.

Missouri Defense

Total Defense: 16th nationally (331.1 yards allowed per game)

Scoring Defense: 13th nationally (19.7 points allowed per game)

Rushing Defense: 26th nationally (127 yards allowed per game)

Passing Defense: 35th nationally (204.1 yards allowed per game)

Third Down Defense: 20th nationally (34.7 percent)

Tackles For Loss: T-8th nationally (91 tackles for loss, 7.5 tackles for loss per game)

Sacks: 6th nationally (40 sacks, 3.3 sacks per game)

Interceptions: T-41st nationally (12 interceptions)

Call me old fashioned, but if a sign of a good defense is stopping the opposing offense, not allowing points, and taking away the football, then there’s really no contest here. Certainly, Penn State can concede tackles for loss and sacks to the Tigers, but not by much. Mizzou only picked up four more tackles for loss and 10 more sacks, hardly enough of a reason to name Steckel a better defensive coordinator than Shoop.

Of course, you can make the argument that Missouri plays against higher competition in the rough-and-tumble SEC, and I’d have to agree with you. Steckel also took the Tigers’ D from 81st in the country in total defense to 16th, an impressive jump to make in just one season. But if I may, let’s look at how both teams fared against a common opponent: the Indiana Hoosiers.

Penn State’s defense vs. Indiana (W, 13-7): 13 first downs, 221 total yards (68 passing, 153 rushing), 3-17 third down conversions (18 percent), 2 interceptions, 0 offensive touchdowns

Missouri’s defense vs. Indiana (L, 31-27): 27 first downs, 493 total yards (252 passing, 251 rushing), 1-14 third down conversions (7 percent), 0 turnovers, 4 offensive touchdowns

Hmm…

I don’t think I need to remind you that Indiana isn’t great at playing football. The Hoosiers rank 61st nationally in total offense (405 yards per game) and 92nd in scoring (25.1 points per game). The team needed a close victory over Purdue in the final game of the season to avoid being swept in Big Ten play, and finished second to last in the conference with a 4-8 record.

Granted, Indiana did play with starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld against 18th-ranked Mizzou, while Penn State faced a Hoosiers offense led by Zander Diamont. However, Penn State’s defense limited Doak Walker finalist Tevin Coleman to 71 yards rushing on 3.6 yards per carry, while Coleman rumbled through the Tigers’ defense to the tune of 132 yards and one touchdown on 6.9 yards per carry.

All in all, it’s yet another head-scratching decision for a program that just held 10th-ranked Michigan State, the nation’s seventh best scoring offense (43.1 yards per game) and 14th-best total offense (496.5 yards per game), to 34 points and 298 total yards, with one touchdown coming on a 90-yard kickoff return and another coming late in the game after Penn State failed to convert on fourth down deep in their own territory.

Much like Mike Hull being snubbed for the Butkus Award, I’m all out of explanations for this one.

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About the Author

CJ Doon

CJ is a senior journalism major from Long Island and Onward State's Sports Editor. He is a third-generation Penn Stater, and his grandfather wrestled for the university back in the 1930s under coach Charlie “Doc” Speidel. Besides writing, one of his favorite activities is making sea puns. You can follow him on Twitter @CJDoon, and send your best puns to [email protected], just for the halibut.

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