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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop received a nice welcoming gift as he began his new job.
About an hour before Shoop held his introductory press conference Tuesday, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin announced he was returning for his senior season rather than turning pro. Reeves-Maybin's decision means Shoop's defense returns its top tackler.
"I like the fact that this isn't a rebuild," Shoop said. "The parts are in place for this to be a championship unit. I really think that."
Shoop agreed Saturday to become Tennessee's defensive coordinator after holding the same position at Penn State the last two years. Shoop replaces John Jancek, who had been defensive coordinator the first three seasons of Butch Jones' head coaching tenure.
Jones announced last week that he and Jancek had "mutually agreed to part ways." But Jones' comments Tuesday left little doubt the move was his call.
"It's the hardest thing I've had to do as a head football coach," said Jones, who noted that he isn't expecting any additional staff changes. "Sometimes you've got to step back and look at everything. You've got a personal side and a professional side. I'm very thankful for coach Jancek. Coach Jancek has done a very good job for us. I love his family. I love John.
"But sometimes you've got to step back and as a leader, you're forced to make very, very difficult decisions."
Shoop received a three-year contract that pays him $1.15 million annually. He also gets $5,000 in camp compensation each year. His Tennessee contract includes no buyout, so Shoop wouldn't owe the school any money if he left for another job.
Tennessee isn't responsible for paying the buyout Shoop owes Penn State. Neither Shoop nor Penn State has disclosed the amount of Shoop's buyout.
Each of the last five seasons, Shoop has coordinated a unit ranked among the top 25 teams nationally in total defense. Penn State ranked 14th in total defense and tied for 26th in scoring defense this season.
"When you're playing a Bob Shoop defense, you're fighting for blades of grass on every single snap," Jones said.
The 49-year-old Shoop thanked Penn State coach James Franklin for taking "a chance five years ago on a I-AA defensive coordinator." Shoop was William & Mary's defensive coordinator before joining Franklin first at Vanderbilt (2011-13) and later at Penn State.
Shoop said it took "something special" for him to leave Penn State but added that Tennessee had long intrigued him. During the interview process, Shoop had a 12-hour session with Tennessee's other defensive coaches in which he realized his philosophies could mesh with their ideas. Shoop said his Vanderbilt background makes him already familiar with plenty of Tennessee players, including Reeves-Maybin, defensive ends Derek Barnett and Kyle Phillips and defensive backs Rashaad Gaulden and Todd Kelly Jr.
Shoop said he and Reeves-Maybin exchanged texts through much of Monday night's College Football Playoff Championship game.
The coordinator said he's been in Neyland Stadium and "there's only a handful of places where I've walked in as a coach and got chills. That was pretty cool. ... The fan base is rabid. This is as big-time as big-time gets to me."
Shoop talked about building an "in-your-face defense that's built on relentless pursuit and never-ending pressure." He believes in tailoring his scheme to what his players are capable of doing rather than recruiting players to fit a specific scheme.
Shoop also emphasized making sure his defense performs best when the game's on the line. Tennessee ranked 16th nationally in total defense and 36th in scoring defense this season, but the Volunteers squandered leads in each of their four defeats. They were ahead by at least 13 points in losses to Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas.
"We're here to build a championship-caliber defense," Shoop said. "Let me be clear on that."
AP college website: collegefootball.ap.org