John Adams: Maggitt, Johnson Alabama-like linebackers

John Adams

How many wins would constitute a successful season for UT?

See the results »

View previous polls »

Sal Sunseri doesn't beat you over the head with references to his last job. Quite the opposite, in fact.

He referred to the University of Alabama as "that other place" after Wednesday morning's practice.

UT's first-year defensive coordinator was an assistant head coach and linebackers coach at that other place for two national championships in the past three seasons. Although Tennessee fans probably would prefer he didn't flash his championship rings while on the UT payroll, they're not averse to all things Alabama.

It's all about the context.

He said after practice that UT's Curt Maggitt and A.J. Johnson "might be the finest young linebackers I've ever coached."

If he had spent the past three years at Ole Miss, I wouldn't have bothered transcribing the quote. But Alabama just sent linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower to the NFL; linebackers C.J. Mosley and Nico Johnson are featured on the back of the 2012 Alabama media guide.

Asked to elaborate, Sunseri emphasized, "I wasn't around Courtney Upshaw when he was young." But he was around Mosley and Johnson. So the comparison still has impact, and it indicates how much of an impression Maggitt and Johnson have made in just the first week of camp.

"I didn't notice this till I got them both out here this summer," he said. "Their attitude, their work ethic, their toughness — I'm really, really pleased with those guys."

UT fans might be more excited if Derek Dooley had said one of his running backs reminded him of Herschel Walker. But in the realm of the possible, what could be more encouraging for the defense than Sunseri's assessment of his sophomore linebackers?

Dooley has been campaigning for playmakers on defense since the end of last season. Perhaps the new 3-4 defensive alignment will create more opportunities for them. But it can't actually make plays.

Sunseri believes Maggitt and Johnson can do just that and not only at this level.

"I think they have the potential to get drafted into the National Football League," he said. "Depending on their work ethic, that will determine what round. They have the talent to do it."

Just dropping "talent" in a conversation on UT football can create a fan frenzy. It hasn't come up that often the past two years. Now you have a quarterback and wide receivers being mentioned as future pros, and a defensive coordinator comparing his linebackers favorably to the ones coming off the Alabama-NFL assembly line.

There's more — if you can handle another Alabama reference.

When former Alabama defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore showed up for UT's spring practice, he hardly reminded Sunseri of the promising young pass rusher he remembered from Alabama.

"I was shocked," Sunseri said.

Sentimore had bulked up, supposedly to improve his status in UT's three-man front. What he gained in pounds, he lost in stamina. A starting position that seemingly was his for the taking suddenly was up for grabs.

He's starting now. He's also standing out.

When defensive line coach John Palermo was asked if anyone had separated himself from the competition, he singled out Sentimore and Maurice Couch.

"(Sentimore) thought he had to get over 300 pounds to play this technique," Sunseri said. "That's not the case. It's more about power and speed.

"He's moving quicker now. He's shocking people. He's tearing off and making plays."

If he's still making plays this fall, UT fans won't care if he started out at that other place.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 37

Ayres_Hall writes:

Sal doesn't appear to be a guy who blows smoke up your dress.

aspenvol2 writes:

Just like bammer, huh John? You get your digs in any way you can, don't you? Wow ... so bad.

TheVolMan writes:

Great article John. Ignore the folks with small petty minds who try to rip you. They are idiots with a dumb agenda. They need to get back to their Boone's Farm and get away from the computer.

VOL56 writes:

Anyone remember
Hacksaw Renolds and Steve Kiner???

volgrog#210164 writes:

Typical Adams- tweaking the fan base. These guys are like TN linebackers are supposed to be- guys like Al Wilson, Raynoch Thompson, Andy Spiva, Hacksaw Reynolds, Paul Neumauff(?), Eddie Moore, Eric Westmoreland, Dale Jones, Leonard Little, Nick Reveiz, Kevin Simon, Kevin Burnett, Jarod Mayo, etc.

Sholmey1221 writes:

Anyone who has problems with Adams based on this particular article has serious Vol insecurity issues. This was a positive article folks.

volfaninutah writes:

Dang John, news day must be slow. It's got to the point that you can't come up with your own articles? Evan Woodbury posted the same headlines at 5:56 today. Your article, with the same quotes was posted at 6:32. Please don't copy...

snafu14u#241639 writes:

in response to volgrog#210164:

Typical Adams- tweaking the fan base. These guys are like TN linebackers are supposed to be- guys like Al Wilson, Raynoch Thompson, Andy Spiva, Hacksaw Reynolds, Paul Neumauff(?), Eddie Moore, Eric Westmoreland, Dale Jones, Leonard Little, Nick Reveiz, Kevin Simon, Kevin Burnett, Jarod Mayo, etc.

A little overly Orange sensitive it seems to me. Sal never coached the UT players you mentioned so how does he make the comparison. You guys are something else.....BonzaiVol

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

It's coachspeak, and it's going on all over the place. Urban Meyer recently said "Braxton Miller is the best player he's ever coach," or something similar. LOL

Better than Tim Tebow, better than Percy, better than Cam Newton, better than Joe Haden, better than either Pouncey twin, better than Chris Leak? Of course not. Meyer is trying to instill confidence in his player and get the fan base excited at the same time.

I suspect Sunseri is doing the same thing.

FearTheVols1252 writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie3:

It's coachspeak, and it's going on all over the place. Urban Meyer recently said "Braxton Miller is the best player he's ever coach," or something similar. LOL

Better than Tim Tebow, better than Percy, better than Cam Newton, better than Joe Haden, better than either Pouncey twin, better than Chris Leak? Of course not. Meyer is trying to instill confidence in his player and get the fan base excited at the same time.

I suspect Sunseri is doing the same thing.

But you forgot, Urbie never coached them... the players were in control. Perhaps now he's not dealing with a bunch of undisciplined thugs and can actually coach.

CarlChilders writes:

in response to volgrog#210164:

Typical Adams- tweaking the fan base. These guys are like TN linebackers are supposed to be- guys like Al Wilson, Raynoch Thompson, Andy Spiva, Hacksaw Reynolds, Paul Neumauff(?), Eddie Moore, Eric Westmoreland, Dale Jones, Leonard Little, Nick Reveiz, Kevin Simon, Kevin Burnett, Jarod Mayo, etc.

At the expense of dating myself, don't forget Jackie Walker, James Noonan, Keith Delong...

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

in response to FearTheVols1252:

But you forgot, Urbie never coached them... the players were in control. Perhaps now he's not dealing with a bunch of undisciplined thugs and can actually coach.

Two national titles later, whatever.

Besides, have you checked Ohio State's arrests just since Meyer has arrived? It rivals that of UT... awful.

Do your homework, Spanky!

govolsn3 writes:

This defense will shock the SEC this season.

Sir_Spanky writes:

in response to VOL56:

Anyone remember
Hacksaw Renolds and Steve Kiner???

Early in my tenure as a Vol fan, I remember the medical staff gently placing a UT Chattanooga player on a stretcher and carted off after an encounter with the jeep cutter.

rtrchatt writes:

Lance Thompson said a few things regarding his former employer and team while at UT that he could never back up. Looks like Sal is going down the same road. Wonder what he will say when Vinnie has a pick six in October....
Six in a row and take your beatings just like Lance Thompson did.

40cap writes:

in response to CarlChilders:

At the expense of dating myself, don't forget Jackie Walker, James Noonan, Keith Delong...

Noonan was a nose, not a LB

aspenvol2 writes:

in response to TheVolMan:

Great article John. Ignore the folks with small petty minds who try to rip you. They are idiots with a dumb agenda. They need to get back to their Boone's Farm and get away from the computer.

Funny one John ... a/k/a TheVolMan

SouthPaVol writes:

in response to 40cap:

Noonan was a nose, not a LB

40 something, think you are correct. but what are facts. <smile>

my left-handed comment: although he has made a wonderful NFL linebacker, Little played mostly as a bull rusher from defensive end position of our 4-3 at the time. Sometimes he stood up, which technically put UT in a 3-4 defense, with Little crashing the end. Sometimes UT may crash both OLBs this year, which will put us in a 5-2 defense--often used to increase pressure on a good passing QB or is effective against option teams. Whether 4-3, 3-4, or 5-2, it's all the same: gotta beat the man in front of you and make the tackle, preferably for a loss. Go Vols!

Bigger_Al writes:

in response to aspenvol2:

Funny one John ... a/k/a TheVolMan

I think that's Adam's lover.

FearTheVols1252 writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie3:

Two national titles later, whatever.

Besides, have you checked Ohio State's arrests just since Meyer has arrived? It rivals that of UT... awful.

Do your homework, Spanky!

You’re trying to compare arrest records and claim that I need to do MY homework?!? Ok.

2 titles while Jesus Tebow was there. As soon as he left, performance plummeted. I’m pretty sure Tebow was coaching that team. When Muschump gets handed his walking papers, you guys may want to get Tebow back to coach. I doubt his NFL career will go very far… especially now that he's with the dysfunctional Jets.

Lucky931 writes:

First of all, he never stated they were "Alabama Like" and any Vol fan that does not take offense to that comment is not really a Vol fan!! It was a jab and JA knew it when he was doing it! Is Alabama the only school that has LB's?? Get outta here!!

frblalack writes:

in response to VOL56:

Anyone remember
Hacksaw Renolds and Steve Kiner???

Exactly! This duo is the closest thing to those great linebackers we've had! And they were not only the best in the SEC, both were All-Americans!

All Vols - All the Time - Vol for Life - I bleed Orange!

TheBanker writes:

Dear John:

C'mon Man!!!!!

Tennessee has it's own traditions to compare. I don't particulary care for the attempts to incite a reaction. However, I understand the objective. But I respectfully disagree with the premise that the headline could not have referenced some great UT linebackers

mountainbrook writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie3:

It's coachspeak, and it's going on all over the place. Urban Meyer recently said "Braxton Miller is the best player he's ever coach," or something similar. LOL

Better than Tim Tebow, better than Percy, better than Cam Newton, better than Joe Haden, better than either Pouncey twin, better than Chris Leak? Of course not. Meyer is trying to instill confidence in his player and get the fan base excited at the same time.

I suspect Sunseri is doing the same thing.

Shouldn't you be out looking for a WR coach since your last one had to "resign" last week?

Bobsrazor writes:

in response to aspenvol2:

Just like bammer, huh John? You get your digs in any way you can, don't you? Wow ... so bad.

I have been no great fan of Adams, mainly because I have objected to the negative and snide style he often uses to make his points. But, in this case, sir, you are way off base. This is a well written and straight-forward piece of writing. The fact that it is positive is a plus. Thanks John.

Bobsrazor writes:

in response to volgrog#210164:

Typical Adams- tweaking the fan base. These guys are like TN linebackers are supposed to be- guys like Al Wilson, Raynoch Thompson, Andy Spiva, Hacksaw Reynolds, Paul Neumauff(?), Eddie Moore, Eric Westmoreland, Dale Jones, Leonard Little, Nick Reveiz, Kevin Simon, Kevin Burnett, Jarod Mayo, etc.

Be fair. The comments were Sunseri's not Adams. They are based on Sunseri's experience. Not Adams.

Blue_Duck_Vol writes:

in response to Lucky931:

First of all, he never stated they were "Alabama Like" and any Vol fan that does not take offense to that comment is not really a Vol fan!! It was a jab and JA knew it when he was doing it! Is Alabama the only school that has LB's?? Get outta here!!

You're a moron. Actually 95% of you on here are morons

gc_scvol writes:

Something pretty strange here. After reading all of bdv's post, it almost seems as if they come from someone very close to the author of the article. I'm just sayin.

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to aspenvol2:

Just like bammer, huh John? You get your digs in any way you can, don't you? Wow ... so bad.

Why don't you just sthu. Mouthing off on every article Adams writes,even though it is positive,just shows you are the one that needs help.You are the one that is so sad.

TDTN writes:

I enjoy reading all things orange but this off season seems like eternity. Probably because of the way last season ended. Kickoff can't come soon enough.

Tenn64 writes:

in response to VOL56:

Anyone remember
Hacksaw Renolds and Steve Kiner???

Steve was one of the best to ever wear the orange.

Pompey writes:

in response to volgrog#210164:

Typical Adams- tweaking the fan base. These guys are like TN linebackers are supposed to be- guys like Al Wilson, Raynoch Thompson, Andy Spiva, Hacksaw Reynolds, Paul Neumauff(?), Eddie Moore, Eric Westmoreland, Dale Jones, Leonard Little, Nick Reveiz, Kevin Simon, Kevin Burnett, Jarod Mayo, etc.

...add the great Ray Nettles and Steve Kiner to this list..

volgrog#210164 writes:

in response to Bobsrazor:

Be fair. The comments were Sunseri's not Adams. They are based on Sunseri's experience. Not Adams.

Actually, Mr. Razor, Sunseri didn't bring up any Alabama players until the reporter asked a follow-up about Maggitt and Johnson. Sunseri had said that they could be the best he ever coached. The reporter asked if they were better than Hightower and another LB who escapes me.

Adams was the one that decided to tweak TN fans with the headline. Consider me tweaked.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Good article by John. The inadequate and insecure fans still ride John even on a good article. Small minds.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

I enjoyed reading this article and from what I can see, it would be a blast playing fb for Sal..GBO!!

pingkr62 writes:

in response to RockyTopRenegade:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I guess I missed this. Can someone fill me in?

pingkr62 writes:

in response to RockyTopRenegade:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Thanks!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features