Former foes come together to coordinate Vanderbilt's defense

Monday, January 31, 2011 at 8:55pm

Nearly two months ago, Bob Shoop and Brent Pry were on opposite sidelines, coaching against each other.

The two defensive coordinators were pitted against each other as William & Mary and Georgia Southern faced off in the second round of NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. Pry’s Georgia Southern squad got the best of Shoop and William & Mary with a 31-15 victory.

Fate — and James Franklin — paired the two again ... on the same coaching staff.

Shoop and Pry are together at Vanderbilt as Franklin introduced his defensive coaches on Monday. In so doing, he completed his first coaching staff just two days before National Signing Day.

“I want to surround myself with as many talented, intelligent people as I possibly can and that is what I think I have done here,” Franklin said. “I think that is one of the things that has been humbling for me, especially as a 38-year-old, first-time head coach in the SEC, is to pick up the phone and call these guys and how excited they are about coming to work with me and their belief in me.”

Shoop, a coaching veteran of 23 years, will hold the title of defensive coordinator and coach the safeties. Pry, who spent just one year at Georgia Southern, will serve as co-defensive coordinator and oversee the linebackers.

“The biggest thing we talked about it is checking our egos at the door,” Shoop said. “It is not going to be the William & Mary defense. It is not going to be the Georgia Southern defense. ... It is the Vanderbilt defense and we are going to put our players in position to be successful. That is something we talked about, understanding when we have success that we are all going to get the credit. Nobody cares as long as we have success.”

Shoop is familiar with Vanderbilt as his younger brother, John, was a graduate assistant for the Commodores under Gerry DiNardo during the 1992-94 seasons. John Shoop is now the offensive coordinator at North Carolina.

The elder Shoop, 44, spent the last four seasons with William & Mary, coaching a defense that allowed just 16.7 points per game — the sixth-best mark in the FCS — in 2010. In 2009, the Tribe ranked first in rush defense (61.1 yards per game) and second in both total defense (229.8 ypg) and scoring defense (12.1 points per game). 

Prior to his stint at William & Mary, Shoop was a defensive backs coach at Massachusetts and Boston College. He also has head coaching experience, leading Columbia University during the 2003-05 seasons.

“I am not blind to the fact that I am in the SEC now,” Shoop said. “But at William & Mary we played North Carolina. We beat Virginia a year ago. We took NC State to the last minute [in 2009]. ... I have been preparing my entire career for an opportunity like this and I feel as if I’m prepared.

“The [Colonial Athletic Association] in I-AA football is the SEC of I-AA football. Year in, year out, we played five teams in the top 10 of our level of football. And I keep reminding myself, ‘Just do the things I did there. This is no different. Don’t think you have to do anything different here.’ Then you watch the film and see the matchups but I remind myself to do the things it takes to be successful.”

In Pry’s lone season at Georgia Southern, his defense was yards per game allowed (286.9) and 11th in both pass defense (159.9 yards per game) and scoring defense (18.5 points per game). Prior to his time with the Eagles, he spent three years at Memphis as the Tigers’ defensive line coach.

Pry’s connection to Franklin goes back to Division II East Stroudsburg when Franklin was a quarterback there in the early 1990s. Pry, 40, was outside linebackers and defensive backs coach and his father, Jim, was Franklin’s offensive coordinator.

The younger Pry said the Commodores plan to run a base defense that he calls a 4-3 hybrid, which will allow them to run a variety of schemes. He, along with Franklin and Shoop, said the defense will be “personnel-driven.”

“There is no substitute for motor and maturity,” Pry said. “I want explosive factors and I’m willing to give up few pounds to get that.”

Filling out the defensive staff are Wesley McGriff and Sean Spencer.

McGriff, 43, will coach the secondary and hold the titles of defensive recruiting coordinator and assistant special teams coordinator. He spent the last four years at Miami, coaching some of the ACC’s top defensive backs. Those include former All-American and current New York Giants strong safety Kenny Phillips and the Green Bay Packers starting cornerback Sam Shields.

Prior to Miami, McGriff was at Kansas State briefly during the 2007 season when Franklin was the Wildcats’ offensive coordinator.

“Wes was coming with me whether anybody liked it or not,” Franklin said. “He was my guy from the beginning.”

Spencer, 40, is the defensive line coach. He brings 11 years of experience at coaching that position,  the last two at Bowling Green, where the Falcons’ defensive front recorded 40 sacks during that time.

“Any time you're doing anything in sports, you have a competitive nature,” Spencer said. “That is the way I am in life and that is the way I am in my profession. We’ve got an opportunity to change the culture here and an opportunity to do something special.”


• Franklin also announced the hiring of Chuck Losey as the assistant strength coach and Kevin Threlkel as the administrative assistant for offense.

• Vanderbilt will hold a signing day celebration, which is open to the public, in the Board of Trust Room at the Student Life Center on Wednesday. The doors open at 5:30 p.m., with a reception and meet and greet with Franklin and his coaching staff. Franklin will follow with remarks on this year’s signing class.

2 Comments on this post:

By: richgoose on 2/1/11 at 5:06

This writer is very creative. As a beat writer you always want to find something positive during the off season. At Vanderbilt that is not always easy. I thought this was a very creative story.

By: damons on 2/1/11 at 9:45