Penn State coordinator Shoop bullish on 2015 defense


Mike Hull's signing with the Miami Dolphins as a free agent earlier this month ensured the former Penn State middle linebacker a chance to earn a living in the NFL.

It also allowed him to get the last word on all the clubs, including the Dolphins, that bypassed him in the draft.

Nittany Lions coach James Franklin clearly was irked over that, calling Hull's snub "a travesty." Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop took a more diplomatic tack. Asked if he was surprised or angry about Hull, the heart and soul of the nation's top-ranked defense, Shoop wavered a bit.

"Uh, no," he said. "Angry? Yes. Not angry, but I remember texting Mike around the fifth round and said, 'What do you hear?' At that time he kind of had the feeling he was going to the Dolphins.

"I'm disappointed because I think every kid grows up dreaming of that day," Shoop said. "But in the long run, if Mike is given a fair shot it still wouldn't surprise me if he had a successful pro football career."

Replacing a player like Hull would appear challenging. But Shoop is bubbling with confidence in his replacement, the linebacker previously known as Nyeem Wartman. On Mother's Day, he announced he is changing his name to Nyeem Wartman-White to honor his mom.

Wartman-White moves to the middle after a solid 2014 season playing outside.

"A natural progression," Shoop said. "He has established himself as the quarterback of the defense."

Coming out of spring practice, Shoop sounded just as pleased with the rest of a unit comprising several returning players from a defense that yielded 278.7 yards a game, second in the nation.

Penn State's 7-6 record last season might have been 10-3 if not for a few plays, Shoop said.

Shoop, who flirted with the defensive coordinator job at LSU, is bullish on what lies ahead despite the departures of Hull, safety Adrian Amos (drafted by the Chicago Bears in the fifth round) and defensive ends Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan. Plenty of talent returns.

Jordan Lucas, who moves from cornerback, and Marcus Allen, the third and fourth-leading tacklers last season, "should give us as good a group of safeties as there is in the Big Ten," he said.

He said the same of defensive tackles Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel. Questions at defensive end apparently were resolved by the play of Carl Nassib, Garrett Sickels and others, he said. Shoop said he is "very confident in our (cornerbacks)," and expects Wartman-White to make a big impact in the middle.

"There's a lot of yards going on in football right now," Shoop said of the game's offensive explosion. "How we judge good defense. ... I think that's the challenge right now. "

Note: Shoop said he and defensive line coach Sean Spencer recruited last week outside Baltimore, the site of violent protests the previous week. They did not venture inside the city limits, he said, but Spencer nevertheless was a little apprehensive.

"Spence was like, 'You sure you want to do this, man?, ' " Shoop said, laughing. "On our drive, Spence and I debated the major political issues. If you had a little bug in the car, it would have been humorous."