The newest assistant coach at Tennessee is now its most experienced.
Longtime coaching veteran John Palermo has agreed to join Derek Dooley’s staff as the new defensive line coach, UT announced Friday.
“John is one of the most respected defensive line coaches in the nation,” Dooley said in a UT release. “He has a history of coaching and developing multiple All-Americans, all-conference players, first-round draft picks, and Pro Bowl players. Adding a coach with John’s abilities and successful track record will have a positive impact on our defensive line and our program.”
Palermo’s deal will be for two years, a source told the News Sentinel. The source requested anonymity because it is not authorized to speak publicly on personnel matters. The deal follows suit with the recent agreements reached with new running backs coach Jay Graham and new offensive line coach Sam Pittman.
New defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri’s contract will run through three seasons.
Palermo, 59, replaces Lance Thompson, who left UT last Sunday to take Sunseri’s vacated position as outside linebackers coach at Alabama.
Palermo’s most recent stop in a 37-year coaching career was at Middle Tennessee State. After two seasons, he resigned in December to pursue other opportunities.
“I am very grateful and appreciative of John and what he has done for the program the last two years,” Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Stockstill said in a university release. “He definitely made an impact in our program and did a nice job of developing our young defensive linemen. I think highly of him and wish him the very best.”
The majority of his career was spent at the collegiate level but he recently worked two years as defensive line coach for the Washington Redskins. With Palermo on the staff, the Redskins ranked eighth and 10th in total defense, respectively, in 2008 and 2009. He was out of a job when coach Jim Zorn was fired and replaced by Mike Shanahan.
Palermo, a Newburgh, N.Y., native, hasn’t had to leave the eastern half of the continent during his career. He’s worked at North Carolina State, Austin Peay, Memphis State, Appalachian State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Miami (Fla.) and Tennessee Tech. As a player, he lettered at Florida State in 1972-73.
Palermo was with the Fighting Irish in 1988 when it went 12-0, capping the national championship season with a Fiesta Bowl victory over West Virginia.
The bulk of Palermo’s career was spent at Wisconsin, where he served as an assistant head coach to Barry Alvarez while working with the outside linebackers (1991-95) and the defensive line (1996-2005). Palermo was responsible for the development of four first-team All-Americans and two NFL first-round draft picks. His entire starting defensive line in 2004 was selected in the following year’s draft.
When Alvarez moved on to a role as the school’s athletic director, Palermo moved on to Miami, where he spent one year as the defensive line coach. His stay was brief because it was ultimately coach Larry Coker’s final year with the program, as he was dismissed following the disappointing 7-6 campaign.
Palermo had a one-year stint as Tennessee Tech’s defensive coordinator/linebackers coach in 2007 before moving on to his first NFL job.
Palermo’s one year as a head coach didn’t go well. He was 0-11 at Austin Peay in 1990.
Dooley has two spots left to fill on his nine-man coaching staff. He’s still in the market for a special teams coach and another defensive assistant. Because Sunseri has so much experience coaching linebackers, it is likely that Dooley will look to add an additional coach for the secondary.
Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble