Go big or go home.
That appears to be the mantra of Tennessee head coach Butch Jones in 2016 after pulling off one of the most impressive coaching-staff coups of the offseason.
Jones and former defensive coordinator John Jancek "mutually agreed" to part ways late last week in a surprise move given the timing just one week before the recruiting dead period is lifted.
It was Jones' version of taking a strike hoping to get his pitch later in the at-bat, and he knocked that pitch out of the park with the addition of former Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, who was announced as the new defensive coordinator of the Vols in a release late Saturday night.
"We are very excited about the addition of Bob Shoop to our coaching staff," Jones said in a statement. "Bob has established himself as one of the premier coordinators in all of college football and is very well-respected as a recruiter, football coach and person. He brings a wealth of experience at the highest level and possesses all the qualities we were looking for as we went through this process."
Shoop's defenses have been nothing short of spectacular in State College.
The Nittany Lions finished with the Big Ten's best defense in 2014, giving up just 278.7 yards per game and 4.27 yards per play, and gave up 4.78 yards per play in 2015—his second season with the program. Prior to that, Shoop coordinated a Vanderbilt defense that finished in the top six in total defense in the SEC every year from 2011-2013, and second in yards per play in 2013 (5.07).
"This was not an easy decision and one that I didn’t take lightly," Shoop said in a statement. "Over the last 24 hours I had an opportunity to meet with Coach Jones and his staff. It became evident to me that he is building a great program, a program on the rise and certainly one that will compete for an SEC championship."
It's not like Shoop is taking over a broken defense.
The Vols finished third in the nation in third-down defense under Jancek in 2015 (27.6 percent), on the heels of a 2014 campaign in which they finished 16th (34.21 percent). Fourth-down defense under Jancek wasn't great, which is a big reason the Vols lost to Florida for the 11th straight year and missed out on what would have been their first appearance in the SEC Championship Game since 2007.
As Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports' noted on Twitter, he's walking into a perfect situation:
Stewart Mandel @slmandel
Tennessee just landed one of the absolute best DCs in the business, Penn State's Bob Shoop. And he walks into a lot of talent.1/10/2016, 12:51:02 AM
Cornerback Cam Sutton and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin are weighing their NFL decisions, monster defensive end Derek Barnett will be back as a true junior in 2016, talented youngsters Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle will be back up front and the secondary is still littered with talented youngsters like Todd Kelly and Evan Berry.
The window for Tennessee to return to the prominence it once enjoyed under Phillip Fulmer is wide-open in the SEC East thanks to the coaching changes at South Carolina, Georgia and Missouri, the quarterback issue at Florida and the depth that Jones has developed on Rocky Top over the last three recruiting cycles.
Jones knows it, stepped up to the plate and hit a home run that should resonate around the rest of the conference.
The Vols are going big, and Shoop's arrival is only more evidence.
It's a hire that could put Tennessee over the top and send it to Atlanta in early December.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.
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