UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State defensive coordinator and safeties
coach Bob Shoop spoke with the media on Thursday. The Nittany Lions host Michigan State in the
final regular season game on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (ABC). Take a look at a
Q&A with Shoop.
Q: When you got here in January and looked at all of the personnel, did you think this unit could play as well as it has this year?
Shoop: "At that time, I didn't know. When I got here, I'd studied all of the personnel and I knew there was potential. I knew there was a nice nucleus of seniors...I knew Deion Barnes. I knew who Austin Johnson was. I knew C.J. Olaniyan. I certainly knew who Mike Hull and Adrian Amos were. The guys are hungry. They are team-first individuals. They play hard. And I think is a group that embodies the thought that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. They've been really neat overachievers."
Q: Were you able to put your finger on what the defense needed to do a little bit better at the end of the Illinois game and how did the unit bounce back?
Shoop: "It was just a couple plays. (Mike) Dudek and (Reilly) O'Toole made a couple plays. And I think you certainly give them credit. Bill Cubit is an outstanding offensive coordinator. Dudek played a great game on senior day, and O'Toole came up with a couple big plays. We misplayed the first two. We played 72 snaps in that game. You hold them to 282 yards and 14 out of 16 on third down and you don't execute in the two-minute drill. We stepped up at the end and made them kick a field goal, but we needed to block it obviously at that particular point. I think Coach might have said this yesterday; there is a difference between playing well and playing winning football. We need to execute in all situations. We didn't do as well as we needed to at the end of the Illinois game.
"We did a two-minute drill yesterday against the offense, and they executed very, very well. They are a resilient group. They are very confident. We always have a 24-hour rule, good or bad. Twenty-four hours after the game, we have a Sunday meeting to debrief the previous day's game. I show them a good, bad and ugly tape. We evaluate all of the situations to show what we did well and what we did poorly. And then we move on to the next opponent. The players are really excited to play Michigan State this weekend."
Q: What can you say about Ryan Keiser and what he meant to the defense? And how much will it mean to you to see him get honored with the senior class?
Shoop: "Words probably can't express what it means to me to see him out on the field with his teammates on Saturday. That was really one of the weirdest, flukiest things I've ever gone through as a coach on the Thursday before Ohio State...We thought he had the wind knocked out of him, and then for him to have gone through what he has gone through during the past month has been tough. Someone put it really well to me, there is probably no one in our program more equipped to handle such a thing than Ryan because he is married. He's so mature. He recognizes that football is what he does and not who he is. He's handled it incredibly well and unselfishly. I've gotten to know his wife McKenzie during this period better than I knew her before. What he brought to the team that people don't recognize, he is one of those unique people who can make everyone around him not only a better player, but a better person. I include myself in that...As good of a football player as he is, he is a better person. He can be on my team any day. I can promise you that."
Q: How would you describe the improvement Deion Barnes has made this year and his commitment to get better?
Shoop: "Deion is awesome. I saw it when I first got on the job here. When I first got on the job here the perception was that in (2013), he took a little bit of a step backwards. I watched a lot of the game film, and I didn't necessarily see it that way. He and Sean Spencer developed an incredible relationship. And he and I developed a really good relationship. He's a man of few words. He doesn't say a whole lot, but his approach to getting better as a person and as a football player everyday was incredible...There is probably not a player who practices more consistently than he does. He has great fundamentals. He has great techniques."
Q: How much of an impact do you think Mike Hull has had on Nyeem Wartman and Brandon Bell through the whole season?
Shoop: "That is a great question. Mike Hull has had an impact on our entire unit, this entire team, and maybe the entire program. I don't know that I have ever seen a person be more of an ultimate teammate than he is. Similar to Deion, Mike is a person of few words. It's not like he is the most vocal guy. But when he says something, it has a significant amount of substance. To him, it's not talking about it, it's being about it. It's about how he approached winter program, how he approached the new staff with tremendous energy, about how he embraced being the quarterback of the defense. Certainly, he helped Brandon and Nyeem take their games to another level. But certainly he helped a lot of people on the defense take their game to the next level. In some ways, he's like a quarterback on the field. And he has really taken the next step now that Keiser is out."
Q: Remarks on the Michigan State offense...
Shoop: "Michigan State will certainly provide as tremendous of a challenge that we have faced all year. Connor Cook is an outstanding quarterback who is playing really well. (Jeremy) Langford is a tremendous running back. They have great depth at running back. They've got good tight ends. They've got a stable full of wide receivers. And their offensive line is really very, very good."
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