Mike Strange: Vol coaches once had a view from the other sideline

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee defensive line coach John Palermo, right, talks with defensive lineman Joseph Ayres, center, during practice at Haslam Field on Aug. 3.

Photo by Adam Brimer, copyright © 2012

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee defensive line coach John Palermo, right, talks with defensive lineman Joseph Ayres, center, during practice at Haslam Field on Aug. 3.

The seven first-year assistant coaches on Derek Dooley's staff may be new, but that doesn't mean they're not clued in to Tennessee football history.

They can, in fact, cobble together a coherent narrative of the past 30 years of Vol ball — from the opposite sideline.

Of Dooley's nine assistants only offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and first-year safeties coach Josh Conklin have not coached against the Vols.

New running backs coach Jay Graham has seen the Vols from both sides now, first as a star tailback, then as an assistant coach at South Carolina the past three years.

"The first time coming back into Neyland Stadium, you don't realize until you're on the opposite sideline how intimidating it is for your young players,'' Graham said.

Graham was on the winning sideline the past two seasons.

"It was always a little odd playing against your alma mater,'' he said. "You usually downplay it and you don't really want to talk about it.

"It was always a sense of relief after the game was over.''

John Palermo, the new defensive line coach, has the most extensive history on the other sideline, starting with Memphis State in 1981-82.

He was at Minnesota when the Vols beat the Gophers 21-14 in the 1986 Liberty Bowl.

"We didn't have a lot of speed back then,'' Palermo recalled with a chuckle, "and Tennessee had a lot of speed at certain positions.''

Palmero was on the Middle Tennessee State sideline just last year, in a Justin Worley-led 24-0 Tennessee win.

"I will always remember Coach Dooley being very kind to us,'' he said, "running the football instead of throwing down the field at Da'Rick (Rogers). They could have completed a lot more passes.''

Receivers coach Darrin Hinshaw has also seen the Vols from the MTSU (2002) and Memphis (2009) angles.

Tight ends coach Charlie Coiner was alert to being part of history in 1992 when he was at Vanderbilt.

"I grew up in Virginia a big college football fan and an SEC fan,'' Coiner said. "I remember thinking how big of a deal it was that it was Coach (Johnny) Majors' final game.

"And then I remember thinking, 'Wow, we're going to beat Coach Majors in his final game.' It didn't end up happening.''

The Vols rallied in the fourth quarter to send Majors out a 29-25 winner.

Coiner had another Nashville date with the Vols: North Carolina's controversial (to UT fans) 30-27 two-overtime win in the 2010 Music City Bowl.

"I've coached for 28 years and had some overtime victories in the NFL, but that is one of the top three,''Coiner said.

"That's one of those games that was unfortunate for Tennessee because they didn't do anything wrong but they had to bear the brunt of what happened.''

Sam Pittman, now UT's offensive line coach, was Carolina's line coach that night.

"The official picked up the ball and said the game was over,'' Pittman recalled. "We were walking off the field and somebody said they were gonna review it.

"Coach (Butch) Davis said 'Don't let the players go in,' and we waited around.

"I was exhausted after that game and never played a snap.''

Finally, there are Sal Sunseri and Derrick Ansley, late of Alabama.

Sunseri was there in 2009 when the Vols were a blocked field goal away from a stunning upset. Ansley arrived in 2010 for the past two Tide romps.

But Ansley's link to UT goes back deeper.

"Before I got to Alabama, when I first started coaching, I used to study Coach (Larry) Slade's defensive back drills,'' he said, "when they had those really good players, like Deon Grant, Dwayne Goodrich and Andre Lott.

"Even though I'm from the state of Alabama, I was a big fan of how they ran their football program.''

Now Ansley helps them run it.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange

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

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Comments » 6

tovolny writes:

Mike, I love your stuff. Somewhere in your heart glows with the Tennessee spirit. Good job.

jobrando#216494 writes:

I got my fingers crossed for them. This is the year that tells.

CoverOrange writes:

"That's one of those games that was unfortunate for Tennessee because they didn't do anything wrong but they had to bear the brunt of what happened."

Yeah, but the officials did

jes71130#226731 writes:

The real Vol coaches used to have a view from the opposite side. When I started selling programs at Shields-Watkins field and the General was the coach, the Vols' benches were on the east side. I think the same was true under Bowden Wyatt and that Doug Dickey changed this.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to jes71130#226731:

The real Vol coaches used to have a view from the opposite side. When I started selling programs at Shields-Watkins field and the General was the coach, the Vols' benches were on the east side. I think the same was true under Bowden Wyatt and that Doug Dickey changed this.

I had always understood the home side was changed to the west side when TV cameras positions were placed under the press box on the east side, thus the view would always be of looking at the home team. It may have had something to do with where the dressing rooms were at that time.

VOL56 writes:

The team doesn't have to face the sun on the press box side - my seats are in section BB (opposite side) we always have to wear hats during day games.

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