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Tennessee Football: Why Hiring Bob Shoop Is a Gamble, but One Worth Taking

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2016

Credit: 247Sports

Earlier this week, Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart told GoVols247's Wes Rucker that new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop's decision to take care of his buyout with Penn State was a "very, very loud statement" about how much he wanted to be at UT.

On Tuesday came the question.

Apparently, Shoop's new three-year contract at Tennessee—which reportedly will pay him $1.15 million annually—does not include a buyout.

Patrick Brown @pbrown247

Just got a copy of Bob Shoop's MOU with Tennessee. He has no buyout if he leaves.

That footnote should not be taken lightly when projecting Shoop's long-term potential at Tennessee.

While the lack of a buyout doesn't guarantee Shoop is only making a pit stop on his way to being a head coach, it certainly gives him free rein to jump ship whenever another opportunity comes along. 

Considering coach Butch Jones parted ways with longtime defensive coordinator and de-facto security blanket John Jancek, who'd been with him at his three head coaching stops, in favor of a possible one-year wonder is somewhat of a gamble.

After all, Shoop told reporters two weeks ago he hoped Penn State would have him "forever and ever and ever" and then bolted. So, expecting him to be a bastion of loyalty in Knoxville is a bit of a stretch.

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It's coaching, not clergy.

But Jones' roll of the dice is one that comes with a high reward and, ultimately, not a whole lot of risk. That little bit of concern Tennessee fans may have should be offset by Shoop's upside.

The Vols have a ton of talent returning on defense in 2016. That stable of stars got a lot more impressive on Tuesday when unit leader and rising senior outside linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin announced on Twitter he was returning for his final season on Rocky Top:

Jalen Reeves-Maybin @ReevesMaybin

No Rearview!! https://t.co/CDe8HYdtP4

The insertion of a mad-scientist coordinator who gets mad results everywhere he goes is a perfect formula for Tennessee's success next year. When he told reporters at his press conference he would field a "championship defense," that didn't ring hollow.

Shoop's defenses ranked no lower than 23rd nationally in each of the past five seasons. The experiences he encountered recruiting while at Vanderbilt will pay big dividends at Tennessee considering he is already familiar with UT's roster.

You always expect a big-splash coordinator will stay at least a couple of years, but even if Shoop winds up a one-and-done coach in 2016, it's an ideal season for Tennessee to employ a defensive guru.

With players such as Reeves-Maybin, defensive end Derek Barnett, tackles Shy Tuttle and Kahlil McKenzie, middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. and perhaps even undeclared junior cornerback Cameron Sutton returning, the Vols defense could be special. Shoop should enhance that.

Secondly, stealing Shoop from Happy Valley sent shockwaves throughout the college football stratosphere, and that's exactly the kind of noise Tennessee needs to be making.

Jan 1, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Butch Jones and  his team celebrate as they beat the Northwestern Wildcats in the 2016 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Tennessee Volunteers defeated the Northwestern Wildcats 45-6. Tennes
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee's athletic department operated in the red throughout the past half-decade, thanks to coaching missteps and a botched handling of funds throughout former AD Mike Hamilton's tenure. Hart worked to free UT from the doldrums, and hiring Shoop is a clear sign those days of frugality are over.

If UT wants to be a championship football program, it had to pony up. And it did. 

The kind of money it took to lure Shoop will make Tennessee a destination spot for the majority of defensive coordinators around the country. So, even if Shoop were to leave, hot coaching commodities will be lining up to line their pockets. 

Tennessee's pool of candidates this time around was rumored to include Gene Chizik, Brady Hoke and Todd Orlando. That's fishing in the champion's run of the river, and there's no reason to think the Vols can't continue to do that, even if Shoop's time in Knoxville is short.

To further that point, let's say Shoop gets the opportunity to be Vanderbilt's next head coach, just for example. (He was the DC there under James Franklin and even mentioned in his press conference that his youngest son may attend Father Ryan High School in Nashville, Tennessee).

Would a coordinator getting a head coaching gig not make the position a lot more attractive for prospective replacements?

Opposing schools weren't beating down Jancek's door, even though he'd proven to be a solid coordinator at UT. You always want assistants other teams want because that means they're doing a good enough job to be coveted. 

Top programs replace top coaches every year and get other top coaches. Rinse, repeat. 

Finally, the biggest message this sends to everybody is Tennessee is ready to win right now and will do whatever it takes to get there. That's a strong statement to the college football world, and it's even stronger to a hungry fanbase ready for bigger and better things.

Early in the season, Jones took a few knocks nationally for his conservative play-calling on the field. This off-field move was about as bold as you can get.

Shoop is a superstar, respected all over the country for his prowess calling defenses, attacking opponents and tailoring his scheme to fit his players' strengths. He's the kind of coordinator teams will come after every single season.

In the Southeastern Conference football arms race, Tennessee just hired a big gun to take its defense to a completely different level. Whether or not he's a mercenary is the only question.

However, it's one where the tradeoff is worth the uncertainty.

All quotes and information gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports, unless otherwise noted. All statistics gathered from CFBStats.com, unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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