Tennessee plucked an assistant from Alabama to fill a hole on its staff.
The Crimson Tide has returned the favor.
Defensive line coach Lance Thompson was tapped on Sunday night for a return to the Alabama staff he was a part of prior to landing with the Vols three years ago, according to a source in the program. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. Thompson is set to take over the position most recently held by Sal Sunseri, whom UT just signed to a three-year deal to take over as its defensive coordinator.
"You catch a break for about 30 seconds," Vols coach Derek Dooley said Friday while announcing the addition of Sunseri. "That's about how long you've got at Tennessee before something else is on the way."
Yet another search is on tap for Dooley now, with Thompson's return for a second stint under coach Nick Saban at Alabama — and third overall with him — leaving the Vols to look for a sixth new assistant since the season ended with a disappointing loss at Kentucky.
Wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett retired and special teams coordinator Eric Russell left for Washington State in December.
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon accepted similar positions at Washington this month, which was followed last week by offensive line coach Harry Hiestand resigning to accept an offer from Notre Dame.
At this point, UT coach Derek Dooley has replaced three of his vacancies, welcoming Jay Graham back to his alma mater to handle running backs, landing Sunseri on Friday and hiring former North Carolina assistant Sam Pittman last week to take over on the offensive line.
According to a source, San Diego Chargers coordinator Rich Bisaccia remains the top choice for the special teams vacancy.
As for the other available spots, Dooley declined to address how he might proceed during his Friday news conference but did indicate that the addition of Sunseri and his versatile background allowed for some creativity.
"Sal can coach a lot of positions," Dooley said. "There's flexibility, but I don't want to go ahead and tell you how we're going to slot everybody."
However the staff shakes out, the Vols will now have one more new face on it.
Austin Ward covers Tennessee football.