According to multiple reports, Alabama outside linebackers coach Sal Sunseri will be in Knoxville today as a candidate to fill Tennessee's defensive coordinator vacancy. VolQuest says that Sunseri "has emerged" as the Vols' top target, and if Sunseri's in town to talk, he's at least interested despite the fact that he has a son who plays for the team he'd be leaving.
If all of that is true, it would explain the delay. I'm told that Randy Shannon was never a viable option. Kevin Steele and Ron Zook were both in play, but Sunseri is apparently who Tennessee really wants, and you can't really have serious in-depth conversations with him while he's preparing for the national championship. At least not publicly.
So who is this guy? The Alabama media guide, of course, says he's All That, including the kitchen sink and the bag of chips, and that he's fat- and gluten-free to boot. The puffery-free version: Sunseri walked-on at Pitt in 1978 and became a team captain and consensus All-American linebacker. His teams were 33-3, and he has a list of Playing Days Accolades that you'd expect from such an All-American with three losses.
Sunseri coached the defensive line and linebackers at Pitt in 1985 and was named assistant head coach in 1992. From there, he started climbing the zig zag coaching career ladder that the successful ones like so much, stepping early on Iowa Wesleyan and Illinois State and Louisville and Alabama A&M (as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at the latter ladder). He then went to LSU to work with Nick Saban in 2000 and then to Michigan State in 2001 before heading off to the NFL's Carolina Panthers.
He began his time with Carolina as a defensive assistant in 2002 and took over as defensive line coach in 2003. There, he coached Pro Bowlers Julius Peppers, Mike Rucker, and Kris Jenkins, and had at least one Pro Bowl DL in five of six seasons.
Sunseri joined the Alabama staff three years ago and got a national championship ring his first season due largely to one of those excellent defenses Nick Saban likes to use. He now coaches the linebackers, is the team's "assistant head coach for defense," and was last seen dancing in his living room wearing nothing but his Official National Championship Locker Room Hat. I'm guessing at that last part, but it's what I'd do. You saw what 'Bama's defense did this season.
The question of whether the coach makes the players or the players make the coach is a particularly appealing false dilemma right now. Have Sunseri's teams been good because he's been there, or has he just been in the right place at the right time? I don't know. But I do know this. Folks tend to favor their own, and the guys making this decision -- Dooley and Hart -- are forever stained crimson and they think it's a good thing. And if we're being honest, it probably is. Hey, if we can repackage the same recent success in orange, we'd take that, right?
I'd say this is probably going to happen. We are too close to National Signing Day and too far from the resignation of Justin Wilcox and Peter Sirmon to make waiting any longer a viable option. Tennessee is expecting 8-10 official visitors (plus some unofficials) this weekend, and you'd think that having a coordinator hired would be a check mark on the right side of the ledger for those guys.
So what do y'all think? Would Sunseri be the best possible hire under the circumstances?