NASHVILLE - Two days before National Signing Day, Vanderbilt Head Football Coach James Franklin announced four new defensive hires that complete the new Commodore coaching staff.
The Vanderbilt staff additions include two of the most innovative defensive coaches at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level, a former key defensive assistant at the University of Miami and a top young defensive line instructor from the Mid-American Conference.
Bob Shoop, a highly regarded defensive innovator who developed top units at William & Mary in recent years, will serve as defensive coordinator and safeties coach for the Commodores. Brent Pry, who directed one of the strongest FCS defenses last year at Georgia Southern, will serve as co-coordinator and mentor Commodore linebackers. Former Kentucky assistant Wesley McGriff, mentor of three recent All-Atlantic Coast Conference standouts during four years at the University of Miami, will guide Vanderbilt defensive backs and serve as the team's defensive recruiting coordinator. The Commodore defensive line will be coached by one of the nation's top young line mentors in former Bowling Green assistant Sean Spencer.
Franklin believes the new defensive staff will prepare the Commodore defense to compete at its highest level against SEC competition.
"I can't wait to get to work and really start preparing for spring practice and the upcoming season," Franklin said. "These four coaches bring the highest level of professionalism, intensity and desire to the purpose of winning football games at Vanderbilt.
"We intend to play an aggressive style of defense with tremendous energy and intensity. That's my expectation and the expectation of these coaches," Franklin added.
Franklin announced his full offensive staff, strength director and key administrators two weeks ago.
Shoop, a veteran of 23 years in the coaching ranks and former head coach at Columbia University, guided a remarkable transformation of the William & Mary defense during a four-year tenure. In 2010, the Tribe ranked among the top defenses in the Division I championship subdivision, limiting opponents to just 16.7 points per game. In 2009, Shoop's defense helped key one of the finest William & Mary seasons in many years, an 11-3 campaign that ended with an appearance in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) national semifinals. The season also included road wins over Virginia and No. 1-ranked FCS foe Southern Illinois.
The 2009 William & Mary defense, paced by All-Americans Sean Lissemore and Adrian Tracy, was one of the best in school history. It ended the year tops in the nation in rush defense, allowing just 61.1 yards per game, and second nationally in total defense (229.8 ypg) and scoring defense (12.1 ppg.). Additionally, the W&M defense forced 27 turnovers.
Shoop, a former defensive assistant at Boston College and Army, was also named the 2009 FootballScoop NCAA FCS Coordinator of the Year.
Pry joins Vanderbilt after one year at Georgia Southern where he helped guide the Eagles back to national prominence as defensive coordinator and safeties coach.
Aided by Pry's stiff defensive unit, Georgia Southern advanced to the NCAA FCS national semifinals with a 10-5 overall record, and also notched an important regular season victory over No. 1-ranked Appalachian State. Pry's defense contributed to the team's success, ranking among the nation's best in scoring defense (11th, 18.5 ppg), total defense (9th, 286.9 ypg) and pass defense (11th, 159.9 ypg).
A former assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Louisiana-Lafayette, Pry joined Georgia Southern from the University of Memphis, where he served three years as the Tigers' defensive line coach. He was part of a staff that guided Memphis to two bowl appearances, and molded a 2008 defensive line into one of Conference USA's best units.
McGriff mentored some of the Atlantic Coast Conference's top defensive backs during the last four years at Miami. He coached former Hurricane All-America Kenny Phillips, helping develop the hard-hitting safety into a 2009 first-round draft pick for the New York Giants. McGriff also coached two other standout defensive backs at Miami: cornerback Brandon Harris and safety Ray-Ray Armstrong. Harris and Armstrong were named to second team All-ACC, and many NFL draft evaluators expect Harris to be one of the top cornerbacks taken in the 2011 draft.
McGriff's ability to develop standouts also is evident in former Miami athlete Sam Shields. McGriff molded Shields from a wide receiver to a high-performing senior defensive back. This year, Shields started at cornerback for the Green Bay Packers.
McGriff also has strong Southeastern Conference coaching ties, having served the 2001-02 seasons at the University of Kentucky under Head Coach Guy Morris. As the Wildcats' running backs coach, McGriff's tailback pupil Artose Pinner topped the SEC in rushing.
Under Spencer's guidance, the Bowling Green defensive front posted 40 sacks in the 2009-10 seasons despite the lack of a returning starter entering the 2009 campaign. In 2010, Spencer's top pupil, defensive tackle Chris Jones, garnered six quarterback sacks, including 3.5 sacks in a win over Central Michigan that helped Jones earn National Defensive Lineman of the Week honors. At the end of the season, Jones also earned All-Mid-American Conference recognition.
Spencer, who is starting his 11th year as a defensive line coach, guided the defensive line and served as special teams coordinator at UMass in 2007 and 2008. In 2007 the Minutemen had 44 sacks, one of the top sack totals in the country, led by All-American and Buck Buchanan Award finalist David Buris.
Franklin also announced that Chuck Losey will join the staff as assistant strength coach. Losey, a former Vanderbilt football three-year letterwinner, comes to the post from Tennessee State where he has been head strength and conditioning director. Kevin Threlkel also is joining the staff as offensive administrative assistant.