TAMPA, Fla. – Bob Shoop is taking over a defense that will finish this college football season tied with Vanderbilt for last nationally in sacks with nine and, depending on how things shake out during the bowl season, tied for 126th in tackles for loss with 3.5 per game.
Despite the paltry numbers, when he turned on the projector in his office at the Selmon Athletics Center after arriving on campus last Monday, South Florida’s new defensive coordinator liked some things that he saw.
“The statistics from last year certainly indicate that the defense was not very good,” said Shoop, a 33-year coaching veteran who spent this past season as a defensive analyst at Miami. “But when you put on the film, it tells a little bit of a different story. I think we are fairly athletic, I think we have decent team speed and I thought the guys were playing very hard.”
Shoop likes what he has in linebackers Dwayne Boyles and Antonio Grier and he feels the secondary has a lot of talent. A dozen defenders, including six linemen, were part of the early signing class.
“I think a good defensive coach can tailor his scheme to what his players are capable of doing rather than try to fit a square peg into a round hole,” said the 55-year-old, whose unit at Mississippi State in 2018 led the nation in total defense.
Shoop, who has also presided over top-25 ranked defenses at Vanderbilt, Penn State, and Tennessee and was named FCS defensive coordinator of the year (2009) at William & Mary, will mold the Bulls into a defense he said will be fun for the fans to watch.
“I don’t talk a lot about scheme, but I talk a lot about style of play,” said the former football and baseball player at Yale and former head coach at Columbia. “Our style of play will be an in-your-face style built of relentless pursuit and never-ending pressure that will be a full-court press for 60 minutes.”
Coach Jeff Scott is perfectly fine with that.
“I was really looking for a defensive coordinator that has experience in maybe a style of play that (produced) sacks and tackles for loss, because that has been a big area of emphasis for us where we need to improve,” said Scott, who noted he wanted a “head coach” for the defense so that he could spend more time with offense.
On Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period, USF reeled in 24 players, 12 on each side of the ball. The total includes 11 transfers from four-year colleges.
“Our staff did a great job of leveraging the transfer portal to add players with prior collegiate experience and development while also landing a great class of high school players,” said Scott.
Six defensive linemen are part of the class. That was an area of need with six of nine linemen from this past season not returning.
Three of the new linemen are transfers: James Ash from Wake Forest, Nick Bags from Temple, and Clyde Pinder, Jr., from Clemson. Scott recruited Pinder when he was the recruiting coordinator as well as co-offensive coordinator on Dabo Swinney’s staff.
“I think we will look completely different with our defensive line,” said Scott. “I am really excited to get out there this spring.”
Scott said 19 of the 24 signees are set to enroll in January.
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