Sal Sunseri named defensive coordinator; 3-year deal worth $2.4M

This Jan. 6, 2012 photo shows Alabama assistant coach Sal Sunseri talking to reporters as his son, defensive back Vinnie Sunseri, looks on during Alabama's Media Dayfor the BCS Championship, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La. Friday, Jan. 6, 2012. Tennessee has hired Sunseri to be its next defensive coordinator, Volunteers coach Derek Dooley announced Friday, Jan. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Tuscaloosa News, Michelle Lepianka Carter)

Photo by Tuscaloosa News, Michelle Lepianka Carter

This Jan. 6, 2012 photo shows Alabama assistant coach Sal Sunseri talking to reporters as his son, defensive back Vinnie Sunseri, looks on during Alabama's Media Dayfor the BCS Championship, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La. Friday, Jan. 6, 2012. Tennessee has hired Sunseri to be its next defensive coordinator, Volunteers coach Derek Dooley announced Friday, Jan. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Tuscaloosa News, Michelle Lepianka Carter)

Dooley talks about new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri

Sal Sunseri will be named Tennessee's defensive coordinator.

Photo by AL.com

Sal Sunseri will be named Tennessee's defensive coordinator.

2009-11: Alabama, Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers

2002-08: Carolina Panthers, Defensive Line

2001: Michigan State, Linebackers/Special Teams

2000: LSU, Linebackers/Special Teams

1998-99: Alabama A&M, Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers

1995-97: Louisville, Linebackers

1994: Illinois State, Defensive Coordinator

1993: Iowa Wesleyan, Assistant Head Coach/Def. Coordinator/Special Teams

1985-92: Pittsburgh, Defensive Line/Linebackers/Assistant Head Coach (1992)

Sal Sunseri

Sal Sunseri

Derek Dooley has his man.

And the Tennessee coach has dipped into the staff of his old boss for his next defensive coordinator.

Fresh off a role in helping produce a second national championship in three years, Alabama outside linebackers coach Sal Sunseri has been tabbed to take over the defense for the Vols after interviewing for the position on Wednesday.

"Sal has had unparalleled success over the last decade in not only contributing to team and unit success, but also in his ability to motivate and develop elite individual talent," Dooley said in a UT release Friday. "His combination of defensive knowledge, recruiting success, high-energy personality, ability to connect with players and personal integrity and character make him an exceptional fit for Tennessee."

The Vols needed a little more than 10 days to find the right fit, eventually tabbing Sunseri after he spent the last three seasons working under Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban. Sunseri brings ties to both Dooley and new athletic director Dave Hart with him to the Vols as he replaces Justin Wilcox, who left earlier this month for the same position at Washington.

According to the source familiar with the personnel but not authorized to speak publicly, Sunseri will be given a three-year contract with a total compensation of $2.4 million.

"The chance to work with Derek Dooley, who has been around championships and knows what it takes to build an elite program, combined with the rich tradition of the University of Tennessee makes this opportunity so exciting to me," Sunseri said in a release. "I am fired up to work with all the young talent on the defensive side of the ball, and I can't wait to get up to Knoxville and coach them."

With a critical recruiting weekend on tap and the hiring now official, it doesn't figure to be long until Sunseri gets to campus and to work.

Dooley is scheduled to meet the media this afternoon.

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Comments » 469

Flabbergasted writes:

Great! A winner!

VolNavy writes:

Good hire

DBELLALLVOL writes:

Now let's lock up some recruits this weekend!

jimr07 writes:

Can hardly wait to see how many negative comments will follow.. Wait 'til the Fulmeristas and Clay Travis hears it..
In the meantime.. great hires the past few days.

GBOEngineer writes:

Cue the trolls in 4...3...2...1

WSTNVLFN writes:

This is a good hire. This guy just worked with one of the best defenses in college football history and is a great recruiter.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

Does this mean a 3-4 defense? Just asking.

TheOpinion writes:

He might turn out to be a good DC but man I thought we were done with experiments. Thought we were bringing in a proven DC. Further goes to show that we're no longer an elite program.

When LSU needed a DC they hired Chavis not someone's LB coach.

Best of luck and I hope he turns out to be a great DC.

But if you're going to let a position coach be your DC then why not let Lance Thompson do it?

westknoxrepub writes:

For a second there, given the timeline, I thought he'd hired Steele.

TennesseeFab5 writes:

Sounds like a good hire to me! If one of the best coaches on the planet liked him then I think he may know a thing or two about playing defense. Those Alabama linebackers were nasty!

FrostyVol writes:

Welcome Coach Sunseri!! Can you bring your son with you?

TennesseeFab5 writes:

sorry - "coaching" not "playing" defense.

RockyToptoNeyland writes:

in response to GBOEngineer:

Cue the trolls in 4...3...2...1

ok, dude, can you like stop doing that, it's f@%$ing annoying

Orangeblood13 writes:

rammer jammer orange hammer

......

so we are alabama north

Timbo_Slice writes:

Two great hires as far as recruiting goes. They have plenty of work to do this weekend. Time to go to work boys. Lets hope they can coach 'em up in the fall!

lahvolman2 writes:

in response to jimr07:

Can hardly wait to see how many negative comments will follow.. Wait 'til the Fulmeristas and Clay Travis hears it..
In the meantime.. great hires the past few days.

YEP !!! won't take long...they're all sitting in front of their screens practicing their spelling while their trying to figure out just what kind of idiotic comment they can post...BWAHAHAHAHA GO CDD.... GO VOLS

Malloryjoy8 writes:

oh man, how exciting!!!

TennesseeFab5 writes:

in response to RockyToptoNeyland:

ok, dude, can you like stop doing that, it's f@%$ing annoying

Not as annoying has some of the people who post on here whose common sense left them a long time ago

RockyToptoNeyland writes:

I think lance thompson has earned the title as co defensive coordinator at least and a pay raise. But this hire is better than buddy green.

VandyisGold writes:

Sunseri, 2011 recruiter of the year and Pittman the ACC recruiter of the year. This isn't good for the rest of us.

NoogaVol55 writes:

in response to TheOpinion:

He might turn out to be a good DC but man I thought we were done with experiments. Thought we were bringing in a proven DC. Further goes to show that we're no longer an elite program.

When LSU needed a DC they hired Chavis not someone's LB coach.

Best of luck and I hope he turns out to be a great DC.

But if you're going to let a position coach be your DC then why not let Lance Thompson do it?

I agree 100%. I had hope we might find someone with DC experience. I guess when the well is dry, the well is dry. I wish him the best of luck and hope that it works out. If not, it was nice knowing ya Dooley.

FWBVol writes:

If true, this is a great hire. Time will tell if he's an upgrade from Justin Wilcox, but bringing in a coach off the National Champions and that has been a part of two NC teams in the last three years will catch the attention of defensive prospects.

Contrary to what some would lead us to believe, the sky is not falling and the rats are not jumping ship on Derek Dooley. IMO, each hire so far has been an upgrade.

I'll be interested to see if Sunseri coaches the line, linebackers or if he will strictly be the DC and they will bring in another linebackers coach.

If he coaches a position as well as being DC then CDD could split the DL coaches to ends coach and tackles coach. Or Sunseri could coach LBs and two secondary coaches, one for the safeties and another for the corners.

My biggest concern is how all this sits with Lance Thompson. He has become one of my favorites because of the loyalty he has shown to UT and his unquestioned ability to coach and recruit.

TopTenn writes:

Good hires, now lets turn the corner.

NewMarketVol writes:

Sounds like a great hire now lets gets some recruits to go with them!

mrvol2u writes:

I wonder if a few of those 300 lb. DT's would fit in his carry on?

GO VOLS!

ATX_VOL_FAN writes:

like it. good hire. Bama had some mean, tough, and nasty LB's the last few years. Tennessee DID NOT!!! Maybe Sal can turn the "tide" in our direction. Sorry guys, had to do that lol. Wonder if he will double as LB coach too, or if we are going to hire someone for that.

Ironcity writes:

in response to TheOpinion:

He might turn out to be a good DC but man I thought we were done with experiments. Thought we were bringing in a proven DC. Further goes to show that we're no longer an elite program.

When LSU needed a DC they hired Chavis not someone's LB coach.

Best of luck and I hope he turns out to be a great DC.

But if you're going to let a position coach be your DC then why not let Lance Thompson do it?

Not to long ago UT hired a line coach by the name of Chavious. How did that work out? I am willing to look at this with a glass half full. we need better players and I think this guy can bring that to us. Additionally we don't need to bring anyone on that is gun ho to become a head coach and it doesn't appear that Sunseri is looking for that.

He seems to know what to do with big fast linebackers and we appear to have a few of those right now

keepitreal4vols writes:

Who are we, Alabama North? Geez. But it seems like a good hire. I can only imagine what we had to pay him to come work for Precious. I hope he can teach Dooley how to coach.

Ayres_Hall writes:

Wait, wait... there is more. Buddy Green is hired as DBs coach.

OLEVOLFAN writes:

Its a Great day to to be a Tennessee Vol!! Great Hire! Also you may be looking at your next HC if dooley is shown the door in the next couple years! I support dooley 110% but he must win atleast 8 games next seanson or im afraid he will be gone. but these last 2 hires in the last 2 days have been Huge steps forward!! GBO!!!!!!

TheOpinion writes:

in response to Ironcity:

Not to long ago UT hired a line coach by the name of Chavious. How did that work out? I am willing to look at this with a glass half full. we need better players and I think this guy can bring that to us. Additionally we don't need to bring anyone on that is gun ho to become a head coach and it doesn't appear that Sunseri is looking for that.

He seems to know what to do with big fast linebackers and we appear to have a few of those right now

I'm not sure if you're agreeing with me or disagreeing with me.

I said we should hire Lance Thompson who is a coach on our staff just like Chavis was.

I'm going to say you're agreeing with me. And since that's the case....high five to you sir.

SignalMtnVol writes:

Hopefully he will be a good hire. Doesn't have the "Home Run" appeal that others may have had, but hopefully he can can help us win on the field rather than in the press conference.

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

at least you can count past 1

way to go

Clarkrm0706 writes:

in response to Ironcity:

Not to long ago UT hired a line coach by the name of Chavious. How did that work out? I am willing to look at this with a glass half full. we need better players and I think this guy can bring that to us. Additionally we don't need to bring anyone on that is gun ho to become a head coach and it doesn't appear that Sunseri is looking for that.

He seems to know what to do with big fast linebackers and we appear to have a few of those right now

Have to agree. We all know how crucial good coaching is but at some point you have to have talent. Looks like this guy can help bring it.

fearthehound writes:

in response to RockyToptoNeyland:

I think lance thompson has earned the title as co defensive coordinator at least and a pay raise. But this hire is better than buddy green.

Ditto Rocky. I had hoped CLT would get the promotion and I'm not sure about going from outside linebacker coach to DC, but I think Dooley has a lot more insight into this than I do. Hopefully, his recruiting ability will save/upgrade our recruiting class this year.

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

lol might as well go with it

dyerbey#281598 writes:

I think we will like the addition of Sunseri. Somebody was coaching up the Bama defense and I am sure he was part of that. In addition, he is considered one of the best recruiters in the country. Things are looking up, Sunseri and Thompson recruiting and coaching up the defense. Graham and Pittman going to revive our running game, maybe we are turning the corner. Now I would like for Graham to go out and get Mike Davis as are running back.

RemembertheAlamo writes:

Hey Kentucky....you will be lucky to hang a field goal next year. Great Hire! Go Vols!

dyerbey#281598 writes:

in response to dyerbey#281598:

I think we will like the addition of Sunseri. Somebody was coaching up the Bama defense and I am sure he was part of that. In addition, he is considered one of the best recruiters in the country. Things are looking up, Sunseri and Thompson recruiting and coaching up the defense. Graham and Pittman going to revive our running game, maybe we are turning the corner. Now I would like for Graham to go out and get Mike Davis as are running back.

I got excited, I meant "our" running back

VandyisGold writes:

in response to Orangeblood13:

rammer jammer orange hammer

......

so we are alabama north

I wish we could say that.

tulelakevol writes:

Complete upgrade over can't count, give up a few big plays a game Justin in over his head Wilcox.

govols2104 writes:

in response to mrvol2u:

I wonder if a few of those 300 lb. DT's would fit in his carry on?

GO VOLS!

hahaha We all wish!

crimsonviper writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

Does this mean a 3-4 defense? Just asking.

I have no idea, RR. It will be interesting to find out.One thing I am sure of,this is a BIG bump for recruiting at UT.

jimr07 writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You have no idea to whom the job was offered. Nothing but rumor and speculation..
However you did not disappoint with your negative comment..

CantStandCantStandSaban writes:

For some reason, I'm craving a meatball sandwich for lunch.

RemembertheAlamo writes:

in response to SignalMtnVol:

Hopefully he will be a good hire. Doesn't have the "Home Run" appeal that others may have had, but hopefully he can can help us win on the field rather than in the press conference.

Not a homerun, what? Recruiter of the Year in the Nation, Linebacker Coach from the best Defense in the Nation, held LSU to ZERO and only let them get past the 50 one time, and that was in the 4th, and only gave up 3 field goals to the #1 team in the Nation in 8+ Quarters.....Sounds like a homerun to me, maybe not out of the park homerun, but an inside the Park homerun. Great Hire! Go Vols!

underthehill writes:

in response to TheOpinion:

He might turn out to be a good DC but man I thought we were done with experiments. Thought we were bringing in a proven DC. Further goes to show that we're no longer an elite program.

When LSU needed a DC they hired Chavis not someone's LB coach.

Best of luck and I hope he turns out to be a great DC.

But if you're going to let a position coach be your DC then why not let Lance Thompson do it?

Seems to indicate no plans to get rid of Dooley regardless of what happens next year..or maybe a head coach on staff if they do..

bigOutfan writes:

Glad TN has their man. Now go win some games!

pcshowtime writes:

in response to TheOpinion:

He might turn out to be a good DC but man I thought we were done with experiments. Thought we were bringing in a proven DC. Further goes to show that we're no longer an elite program.

When LSU needed a DC they hired Chavis not someone's LB coach.

Best of luck and I hope he turns out to be a great DC.

But if you're going to let a position coach be your DC then why not let Lance Thompson do it?

could not agree more If I were Lance Thompson I would be looking for a new job after being passed up in this manner. He has showed great loyalty to this program. Unless of course he did not want the job. Think about it he was Sal Sunseri from a few years ago. Great recruiter, LB coach for Saban.

pogiegovols writes:

I love the hire, I know hes never been a DC at a D1 school but almost every great HC, OC, and DC started out as a position coach and someone took a chance on them and made them a coordinator or head coach. Welcome Sal to UT. Go Vols

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