MSU's Shoop believes defense at a good spot

Bob Shoop

Staff Writer

Bob Shoop should know a good defense when he sees it.

Shoop, about to begin his first season as Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator, has nearly three decades of coaching experience under his belt with about half of that time spent as a defensive coordinator at various stops.

So Shoop’s evaluation of MSU’s current situation on defense shouldn’t be taken lightly, and with just over a week left before the Bulldogs kick off the season, Shoop says State is in a great spot.

“It’s really been kind of the same story throughout camp,” Shoop said. “We’ve had good pressure on the quarterback and done a decent job stopping the run. If anything (is a problem) at all, our offense is very explosive and occasionally they’ll make an explosive play. We just have to minimize those. If we minimize those, then we’re pretty good.”

If State’s 2018 defense is, as Shoop says, pretty good, it wouldn’t be too big of a shock. The Bulldogs ranked 10th in the country in total defense just last year. Most of the players that contributed to that success are back, including preseason All-Southeastern Conference first team selections Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat on the defensive line. Simmons was also chosen second team Associated Press Preseason All-American.

Simmons, Sweat and the bunch up front tend to get most of the attention whenever MSU’s defense is discussed, however Shoop says the Bulldogs’ talent goes beyond their deep line.

“We’re pretty aggressive and have a pretty good group up front, but we have more depth and better players in the secondary than maybe we’re given credit for at times,” Shoop said.

Shoop’s secondary has shown a tendency to create turnovers in preseason camp. Shoop said that, through MSU’s first 14 practices of camp, State’s cornerbacks alone have totaled almost 30 interceptions as a group.
Jamal Peters and Cam Dantzler have stood out amongst MSU’s corners, but Shoop says he has belief in the entire unit.

“We track turnovers and explosive plays each day and (Peters and Dantzler) are more than just a cover corner,” Shoop said. “They’re more than just a guy who can play bump-and-run man. They play our trap techniques. They play our pod techniques. They play outside thirds and they’re pretty good blitzers, so they bring more to the party than just a one-trick-pony type deal.

“I think Maurice Smitherman has taken the next step and really kind of emerged as kind of that third corner, and Tyler Williams is in pursuit. Tyler specifically lacks the experience of those other guys, but I’m very, very confident in those guys.”

On September 1, Shoop and everyone else will get to see if MSU’s corners and the rest of the defense can live up to all the preseason hype surrounding the unit.

On the whole, Shoop says he already has a good idea of his depth chart for MSU’s season opener.

“Something drastic would have to happen in order to change things right now,” Shoop said. “I think we have got a pretty good idea through, however many days of camp it’s been and two major scrimmages, as to who the guys are and aren’t.”

That doesn’t mean there isn’t still some work to do. As pleased as Shoop has been with the MSU defense’s progress this preseason, there still remains about a week and a half to take more strides forward.
Shoop’s present goal is to take advantage of the days remaining before the games begin.

“There’s still a lot of things to clean up,” Shoop said. “Fortunately, we still have some time to do that.”