A Glimpse Inside The World Of Bob Shoop
If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that it’s good to be Bob Shoop.
Widely considered one of the top defensive coordinators in the country, Shoop remained put in Happy Valley this offseason after engaging in discussions with LSU for the same position. At around $1 million per season, it’s evident that cost was of no issue for Penn State when it came to retaining Shoop’s services, and now that he’s back in the fold for the foreseeable future, there’s reason to believe that Penn State’s defense could springboard off last year’s effort and reach even greater heights.
When it comes to piecing together a dominant defense, a variety of factors must fall in place. First and foremost, the defensive coordinator must serve as the foundation. A defense is nothing without a base to build off of and schemes to implement, but once the foundation is set, a defense is not complete until it’s built upon. The construction centers around the unit’s cornerstone, a player who can change the direction of a game with his performance. Bob Shoop’s unit is teeming with quality players in each position group, but there’s only one game-changer like defensive tackle Anthony Zettel.
Zettel, who led the Nittany Lions in three defensive categories last season — tackles for loss, sacks, and interceptions — is no stranger to the mainstream college football scene, as his busy offseason of uprooting trees and nearly decapitating teammates earned him quite the national reputation. While his off-field antics certainly add to his celebrity image, his on-field achievements gave him with an entirely different reputation in the eyes of opposing players and coaches: matchup nightmare.
Game planning against such a ferocious talent is an arduous task, but luckily for Shoop, he’s on the other side of the fence; he’s the one who gets to unleash Zettel. Zettel is to Shoop what a bright yellow Lamborghini Murciélago is to a wealthy car aficionado: a flashy toy that he can take for a spin whenever he wants. When asked about what it’s like having the unique opportunity to coach and implement a superstar like Zettel into a defense, Shoop reiterated just how much better and more enjoyable Zettel makes his job.
“It’s a lot of fun having a guy like him up front, and it’s really like having a new toy, and thinking ‘how many different ways can I utilize this?'” Shoop said. “Not just [Zettel], but guys like Austin Johnson as well. You try and find creative ways to implement these guys, and you know offenses try and get the ball into the hands of the best player, but you more or less think about scheming on defense for guys in the secondary. When you have a guy like [Zettel] up front, you can move him to different places, or put him in positions where he’s playing over top of the perceived weakest player on another team. He can impact our unit in so many different ways.”
While Zettel shores up the front seven, a potential star-in-the-making bearing the name of a Hall of Fame running back patrols the secondary, drawing comparisons to a member of Seattle’s infamous Legion of Boom. Sophomore safety Marcus Allen gives Shoop a towering presence in the defensive backfield, one who is just realizing his sky-high potential.
The 6-foot-2, 209-pound Allen plays the safety position with reckless abandon — a trait that likely earned him early comparisons to Seahawks safety and Super Bowl Champion Kam Chancellor. While the defensive coordinator believes it might be a bit early to compare the two, Chancellor tweeted his approval and Shoop acknowledged that the potential is definitely there.
“I’ve never coached Kam Chancellor, I mean, he’s arguably one of the best players in the NFL right now, so Marcus has a ways to go before he reaches that point,” Shoop said. “But I think at our level, he has a lot of those same skillsets. Marcus has this tremendous desire, and he wants to be the best. He’s got incredible football intelligence, great communication skills, he does a lot of things very naturally around the line of scrimmage. We’re trying to incorporate things into our scheme to utilize his strengths and get him into the box more, like a Kam Chancellor-type player.”
Shoop elaborated on both Allen’s tackling and blitzing ability, adding another run-stopping element to Penn State’s already stout front seven. Don’t be fooled into believing Allen is merely a box-safety who lacks in pass coverage, as Shoop worked with Allen on ways in which he can escape the stereotype that comes with the label.
“You don’t want to get labeled a ‘box-safety,’ because a box-safety has negative connotations, and means that maybe you can’t play in space,” Shoop said. “I talk to Marcus all the time about trying to be a complete safety by showing range, and improving his ball skills. We’ve watched a lot of film on Kam Chancellor, and we’ve taken some things that we’ve seen from Seattle and other NFL teams and incorporated it into our package.”
Though Allen still has much room for growth and improvement, what he accomplished during his freshman campaign was excellent. Playing in relief of senior leader Ryan Keiser, Allen recorded 58 tackles, two for a loss, one sack, and three pass deflections in only 10 appearances in 2014. With the starting job secured, Allen could break out as a star in Penn State’s secondary — while giving Shoop yet another deadly weapon to add to his arsenal.
Penn State’s defense is loaded with senior leadership and an abundance of talent across the spectrum, but like any high-powered machine, the cogs are useless without the oil. Penn State’s defensive success in 2014 can largely be attributed to Shoop’s orchestration of schemes and packages, along with his ability to play the right player at the right position. With Shoop at the helm, the Nittany Lions will be a force to be reckoned with.
Yeah, it’s good to be Bob Shoop.
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