Sal Sunseri making Tennessee debut as defensive coordinator

Vols 'will go out and operate'

Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri talks to his players as they stretch during practice at Haslam Field at the University of Tennessee Friday, Aug. 3, 2012.  (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, copyright © 2012

Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri talks to his players as they stretch during practice at Haslam Field at the University of Tennessee Friday, Aug. 3, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

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Tennessee practices to prepare for season opener against N.C. State

Tennessee safeties coach Josh Conklin will be working from the press box Friday night, which means he will be safe from busted eardrums and avoid flying spittle from his boss, ultra-intense defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri.

Can the 27-year coaching veteran muster even more intensity in the season opener than he shows every day practice?

“I absolutely think he can,” said Conklin on Tuesday, nodding in agreement with players who said the same thing.

Sunseri, 53, has won national championships, coached future NFL stars and helped craft top-ranked defenses.

But when he walks onto the turf at the Georgia Dome for the season opener (TV: ESPNU, 7:30 p.m.) against North Carolina State, Sunseri will be coordinating his own defense for the first time in 13 years and running the show for the first time at Bowl Subdivision or Division I-A level.

Sunseri said his debut — with the Vols and as a play-caller — is unimportant. The players should be the focus.

“The kids will go out and operate,” he said. “We’ll see how they play, their enthusiasm, their energy, their intelligence.”

Sunseri isn’t the only newcomer on a coaching staff who has only two holdovers from last season.

Sunseri coaches the linebackers. Derrick Ansley, who worked with Sunseri at Alabama, handles the cornerbacks. John Palermo is in charge of the line. Conklin, who was defensive coordinator for two seasons at The Citadel before joining Tennessee’s staff, said communication was smooth during a test run in the final scrimmage.

As for working on a new staff under a new coordinator, Conklin said the first few months couldn’t have gone better.

“It’s been extremely exciting,” Conklin said. “I love (Sunseri’s) intensity and the expectations that he sets. He says, ‘Here’s the standard,’ and he challenges his team to meet that standard.”

Sunseri’s confidence comes from preparation — on the part of players and the coaching staff. The opener has gotten extra attention.

“You have to go back and study tape on (N.C. State) and see what they’ve done the last two, three years. We’ve done our homework. We’ve been here late at night. We have to call it and see what happens.”

And if the Wolfpack present unexpected wrinkles?

“You’ve got to be able to handle it on the sidelines, and then you take it from there,” Sunseri. “But we’ve put them in every situation, every grouping, every play, every surprise, so now it’s about being able to adjust. And that’s where the coaches come into the factor.”

Coaches sometimes want extra practices long after players are ready to compete in real games, but Sunseri said that he’s as ready as his team.

“Guys are tired of going against each other, and they want to go out and execute the game plan and do what they have to do,” Sunseri said. “The kids are excited. They’ve been spending a lot of time (on the game plan). They know what to do, how to do it, and why they’re doing it.”

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at http://twitter.com/TennesseeBeat

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Comments » 35

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Give um H3!! Sal!!

Pullingguard writes:

you gotta respect the guy... Bet the players love him and respect him also.... Just hope he is successful...

jobrando#216494 writes:

If coach D fails I hope Sal survives. Real excited about seeing some tough defense.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to jobrando#216494:

If coach D fails I hope Sal survives. Real excited about seeing some tough defense.

Sal is as hard-nosed as they come..We may get burned from time to time, but the opposing QB will know we're there..GBO!

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Give um H3!! Sal!!

Right on B B.

What I think we'll see is probably not perfection with our execution, but the intensity level will make it pretty close. Most Vol fans want to see people arriving around the ball in a bad mood, flying in to gang tackle, something Tennessee used to be famous for.

In the 3-4 scheme of things, this group of quality linebackers will have to be quick with their recognition and react accordingly.
Pressure on the QB this season is going to be so important..........something that wasn't seen too often last season.

Anyone know the break down on the seating allotment? 50/50?

keepitreal4vols writes:

Flying spittle--KNS will write about anything these days.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Right on B B.

What I think we'll see is probably not perfection with our execution, but the intensity level will make it pretty close. Most Vol fans want to see people arriving around the ball in a bad mood, flying in to gang tackle, something Tennessee used to be famous for.

In the 3-4 scheme of things, this group of quality linebackers will have to be quick with their recognition and react accordingly.
Pressure on the QB this season is going to be so important..........something that wasn't seen too often last season.

Anyone know the break down on the seating allotment? 50/50?

Oh man, I can hear the stadium announcer at Neyland: The ball carrier was taken down by "A HOST OF VOLUNTEERS"! I can't wait, GBO!!

txvolsfan writes:

I want to see a bunch of Al Wilsoning on Friday night!!! Playing fast to the ball but protecting your assignment!!! I think Sal is much of an upgrade over Wilcox!!!
GO VOLS
TXVOLSFAN

PUL4VOLS writes:

Sal's intense and no doubt the defense will be too.I hope we see some real hard take downs by these guys. It should be very exciting. GO BIG ORANGE!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to txvolsfan:

I want to see a bunch of Al Wilsoning on Friday night!!! Playing fast to the ball but protecting your assignment!!! I think Sal is much of an upgrade over Wilcox!!!
GO VOLS
TXVOLSFAN

I hate bend but don't break defense, and Wilcox wrote the book on that safety zone garbage..Unless you have the greatest edge rusher in the game it produced no QB hurries or sacks..Sal, on the other hand will find a way to knock the cr@p out of the QB..I'm stoked, why can't this week end already?? GBO!!

crzyivan writes:

Sal is no Joke! Give em hell! Go Vols!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

VolinCalif writes:

in response to Pullingguard:

you gotta respect the guy... Bet the players love him and respect him also.... Just hope he is successful...

What can one say? We are Vol fans, Sal will be great. The team will win. A very good season. We are BACK. Just name it and it is going to happen (In our favor of coarse).
10-2 plus a bowl
Vols 35 NCS 14

laraccoon writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

I hate bend but don't break defense, and Wilcox wrote the book on that safety zone garbage..Unless you have the greatest edge rusher in the game it produced no QB hurries or sacks..Sal, on the other hand will find a way to knock the cr@p out of the QB..I'm stoked, why can't this week end already?? GBO!!

i hope your right on the QB hurries ,i forgot what a pass rush looked like last season . cant wait to see if McCullers and company can stop up the middle . go VOLS

VolinCalif writes:

Clab
Couldn't say it any truer. But what the H... this is the start of the season. Yell your head off that every thing is perfect, we are the best, we are undefeated. That most likely won't last all season but it's a great start.

lstbodeanvol writes:

GO VOLS BRING IT !!!!!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to ClabosFake:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah, and all this hate and malcontent out of one person..Maybe the problem is in your mirror..Just a thought.

UTKin1992 writes:

The ONLY article so far that's got me pumped up for Friday night! I hope Coach Sunseri can live up to what (I think) his potential is! Go Big Orange! Woo hoo!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to laraccoon:

i hope your right on the QB hurries ,i forgot what a pass rush looked like last season . cant wait to see if McCullers and company can stop up the middle . go VOLS

I think McCullers will definitely stop the run, but if he can whip a center guard combo and collapse the pocket DE Smith & Co will have a feast on QB's.

ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

I think McCullers will definitely stop the run, but if he can whip a center guard combo and collapse the pocket DE Smith & Co will have a feast on QB's.

Actually J. Smith is a LB this yr in the 3-4. Although the 3-4 turns into a 5-2 a lot.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER:

Actually J. Smith is a LB this yr in the 3-4. Although the 3-4 turns into a 5-2 a lot.

I know they call it that, but essentially he's only edge rushing and containing..Sentimore is a down lineman at the end of the line, but in reality it's a 50 front whether you play smith up on the line or two yards off of the line.

BigOrangeFever76 (Inactive) writes:

No start to the season would be complete without a little memory of John Ward. I cried when he retired and miss hearing him call the UT games.

Turn up the speakers and enjoy!! Its football time in Tennessee woooooooooohooooooooo!!!

Vols 31
Pack 17

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61DnOs...

OrangePsyched writes:

Sal will have these guys whipped in a frenzy. A lot of defense is emotion. We may get burned a couple of times but if we generate turnovers on our side it will make up for it. If it's red and moving hit it!

DannyVol writes:

Every year that we've ever been really good in my lifetime - from the Sugar Vols to the Decade of Dominance - we've had attacking linebackers who made life miserable for our opponents. Just ask Vinny Testaverde and Donovan McNabb. In recent years, our linebackers have played like shallow safeties in bend-don't-break schemes, where they retreated much more than attacked. No more of that mess. I used to love watching guys like Westmoreland and Al Wilson go sideline-to-sideline and crush running backs and quarterbacks trying to squeeze out an extra yard on foot. I think we have the right guys at LB, the right scheme, and the right coach to bring back those memories. This might just end up being one of the best LB corps we've ever had.

TommyJack writes:

Pound the fritter.

15_counting writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Oh man, I can hear the stadium announcer at Neyland: The ball carrier was taken down by "A HOST OF VOLUNTEERS"! I can't wait, GBO!!

The game is in Atlanta!

rtrchatt writes:

Sal looks like the new sheriff in town but he is working with a much different posse than what he is used to.

Alabama committ RB Tyren Jones, Marietta, Ga runs for 303 yds/5tds in season opener....

BigOrangeFever76 (Inactive) writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Pound the fritter.

That's exactly what the trolls do in their mommy's basement. Ohhhhh wait a minute........

Vols 31
Pack 17

VolinCalif writes:

in response to BigOrangeFever76:

That's exactly what the trolls do in their mommy's basement. Ohhhhh wait a minute........

Vols 31
Pack 17

Big, you are a rascal, You stole my thoughts.

NO_DIGGITY writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

Sal looks like the new sheriff in town but he is working with a much different posse than what he is used to.

Alabama committ RB Tyren Jones, Marietta, Ga runs for 303 yds/5tds in season opener....

I know what you mean he has much better talent here than he did at Bama, Monster DT, CB with a nose for the ball and the 2 best Soph LB's in the US.

Meanwhile UT Commit Clarke S.M. Kent ran for 675 yds and 8 TD's. At Halftime he Resuced A Kitten from a Tree, saved 2 lifes in the Stands and Busted up a Meteor that was closing in on UAT's campus. No Thanks Needed. After the game he got the Health Care bill repealed and invented a cure for Trees that were dying. He sent the formula to Aubie, so despite Bama's try the Tree is going to Live. Did they ever repair that broken window in Bill Curry's old office?

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

I hate bend but don't break defense, and Wilcox wrote the book on that safety zone garbage..Unless you have the greatest edge rusher in the game it produced no QB hurries or sacks..Sal, on the other hand will find a way to knock the cr@p out of the QB..I'm stoked, why can't this week end already?? GBO!!

Good call Bear..Last year our front four were constantly tied up and pushed around..I can remember going whole games without even touching the QB..Iam no 3--4 expert but Ive seen some replays of recent Bama games this summer and they had guys moving in and out of the line of scrimmage constantly creating mismatches and confusing OLineman blocking assignments and disguising blitzes.With the 4--3 under Wilcox it was all standard straight ahead stuff opposing teams saw a 1000 times and you rarely saw a LB breaking free on stunts..To Wilcox's credit he didn't have the beef and talent like McCullers;Sentimore and Lathers..Just the undersized Jackson and Couch with 2 freshman LB's..Wilcox did manage to have the #28 defense in the nation though..

mytrifecta writes:

I love this guy. In the words of the greatest line backer to ever play the game...lawrence taylor..."go out there like a bunch of crazed dogs!"

Colliervol writes:

I'll just be happy to see some intensity on defense. Haven't seen much of that in awhile. Sounds like Sunseri won't allow them to lollygag around. Time to tee it up and see what they've got.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to 15_counting:

The game is in Atlanta!

Understood, I'm referring to home games this year. UT will be playing at home, right?

Pompey writes:

in response to ClabosFake:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

....I live in SC just across the line from Charlotte. Watched SS coach the Panthers...he is not afraid....!

3rdn8 writes:

Good Luck to Coach Sal. We'll miss him in Tuscaloosa.

Good luck to the Vols as well. The 3rd Saturday is making a comeback.

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