Hello, Readers! When former outside linebackers coach and associate head coach Sal Sunseri left Alabama to be the defensive coordinator at Tennessee, I knew immediately that this was a big loss. So, I decided to put it in print, writing a story for the Crimson White about it.
Now, normally, I put a link to cw.ua.edu for all my Crimson White stories. But, to make everything fit on the page, the boys and girls working in the office last night had to cut some of the story to make room for advertisements. So, I’m going to give you the longer version of my story. Enjoy!
Bama loses great defensive mind, associate HC
By Brett Hudson
Senior Sports Reporter
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The coaching carousel in college football has made stops in Tuscaloosa several times as Alabama has reasserted itself as a national power in recent years.
Former offensive coordinator Jim McElwain recently accepted his first head coaching job at Colorado State and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is one of the hottest commodities in college football, rumored as being a former candidate for the now filled Ole Miss, Penn State, Texas A&M and North Carolina head coaching vacancies.
The carousel made one more stop in Tuscaloosa this offseason, taking away associate head coach and outside linebackers coach Sal Sunseri to be the defensive coordinator for the rival Tennessee Volunteers.
Sunseri’s footprint on the Crimson Tide football program is a big one, and his loss is bigger than many fans realize. He did indeed coach 2012 BCS National Championship Game Defensive MVP Courtney Upshaw and Jerrell Harris, who added seven tackles against LSU on Jan. 9th. Harris was also key in shutting down the option attack run by Jordan Jefferson that had some success in the Nov. 5th meeting.
“Sal is an outstanding coach and really did an excellent job with each and every responsibility he had while he was here at the University of Alabama,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said in a statement. “Although we hate to see Sal go, we understand this is an opportunity for him to grow in this profession and take on the role of defensive coordinator.”
One of Sunseri’s biggest responsibilities was recruiting, which he was one of the best at, being named Recruiter of the Year by 247sports.com. In the recruiting class of 2011, Sunseri plucked Trey Depriest away from the home-state Ohio State Buckeyes, paving the way for the Tide to collect the No. 1 recruiting class in the country according to both rivals.com and 247sports.com.
Sunseri was influential in the signing of Reggie Ragland, four-star linebacker in the Class of 2012 from Madison, Ala., as well.
When Ragland learned about Sunseri leaving for Tennessee, Ragland tweeted, “He will always be my favorite coach. I understand what he had to do, it’s just business.”
He also tweeted, “All these people saying I’m mad about Coach Sal leaving, I’m not mad. I’m happy for him and his [family]. He did what he had to do so Coach, good luck!!!”
Sunseri’s success here at the Capstone and throughout the entirety of his career makes him a great addition to Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley’s staff.
“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, also in a statement. “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.”
Sunseri’s departure put his youngest son, Vinnie, in a tough situation. Vinnie, who just completed his freshman season with the Tide as an important special teams player and defensive reserve, released a statement after Tennessee officials officially announced Sal Sunseri as their next defensive coordinator.
“I love my dad, this is a great opportunity and I’m really happy for him,” Vinnie Sunseri said. “In terms of my status, the University of Alabama is the place for me and that is what my heart and my mind tells me. This is my home and there is no place else I’d rather be. I’ll root for him every day of the year except for the Third Saturday in October.”