By Alex Norman

Tennessee’s defense was good, but not great in 2015, ranking 36th nationwide. But to get to the next level, head coach Butch Jones decided a change was needed.  Exit defensive coordinator John Jancek, and enter Bob Shoop, who spent the past two years building up the defense at Penn State.

“What can you expect from the Tennessee defense, from a Bob Shoop coached defense,” said, well, Bob Shoop… “I know what the expectations are here. We’re here to build a championship caliber defense. Let me be clear on that. We’re going to establish that championship mindset in all that we do. That’s something that’s important to me.”

“Everything is about a fit, and Bob was a great fit for our entire staff,” said Jones.

“He’s obviously very sought after, and I think that it has a direct correlation with him being a great teacher, motivator, leader, recruiter, and an even better person. I’ve had the opportunity to compete against him on two occasions, and I left very impressed with their style of play, the way they attacked, the effort they gave, the details, and the fundamentals that they played with in every game that we saw.”

To make the hire, Dave Hart had to open the purse strings.  Tennessee’s athletic director has been notoriously tight fisted when it comes to assistant coaches when compared to others in the Southeastern Conference.  But in this case, Shoop gets a three-year deal with $1.15 million annually, more than doubling the cash Jancek brought in.

Before working at State College, Shoop was defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt.  And many of the players he recruited a few years back are now veterans on the Vols roster, which should make his transition back to the SEC, that much easier.

“I was very familiar with a lot of the student athletes on the team,” said Shoop. “Jalen Reeves-Maybin and I had a great relationship throughout the recruiting process. Derek (Barnett), Kyle Phillips, Rashaan Gaulden, and Todd Kelly Jr. are all guys that I have had previous relationships with.  I like the fact that this isn’t a rebuild. I think the parts are in place for this to be a championship unit. I really think that.”

Butch Jones, like most head coaches, has surrounded himself with assistants he’s worked with in previous stops.  The hire of Shoop reflects a significant change in that area in perhaps the most important job on his staff.

“I never had the chance to meet (Jones) until last week, but I always admired his process,” said Shoop. “The brick by brick mentality, the attention to detail, the intensity, the passion, the toughness, the championship culture that he’s created here, the steady improvement. From 5-7, to 7-6, to 9-4, and a top 25 finish this year, winning two straight bowl games, winning six games to end this season. I knew it was just a matter of time, and I think this team is poised to compete for SEC championships and playoff berths.”

Tennessee’s hiring of Bob Shoop has been applauded by most in the world of college football.  Whether that means more wins this upcoming season remains to be seen.  But one thing is clear. Butch Jones is going for it in 2016, as the Vols try to get to the SEC championship game for the first time in 9 years.

Florida has significant quarterback issues.  Georgia had a coaching change, as did South Carolina and Missouri.  Kentucky and Vanderbilt are… well… Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

The Vols will play Florida and Alabama at home.  In fact, only 3 of Tennessee’s 12 games will kick off outside the state’s borders.  Tennessee brings back tons of talent at key positions, including possibly 8 starters on defense.

Bob Shoop’s arrival in Knoxville could help the Vols to return to the SEC’s elite.