published Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Greeson: Uncertainty troubling for Vols nation

The search for University of Tennessee's defensive coordinator continues, and with each passing day a new name or three appears and a new level of consternation is added to the process.

Reports from Knoxville had Alabama linebacker coach Sal Sunseri interviewing Wednesday for the opening.

Hey, everyone saw Alabama's linebackers put on a clinic in Monday night's 21-0 whipping of LSU in the BCS title, so Sal must be the best thing since sliced bread, right?

To be fair, Sunseri obviously had a hand in the dominating defensive effort Alabama produced. With Sunseri's linebackers leading the way, the Tide suffocated LSU and did not allow the Tigers to cross midfield until the fourth quarter.

Plus, if Sunseri is the front-runner, that allows the Vols and head coach Derek Dooley the cover to say that this was all part of the plan from the beginning. Is that true? Maybe or maybe not. But this seems to be the closest UT has come to making a move despite a river of unattributed sources throwing out names from Randy Shannon to Kevin Steele to Phil Bennett to Ron Zook to even former UTC head coach Buddy Green.

Sunseri's late addition to the list at least offers some plausible explanation why the Vols have not pulled the trigger in this crucial time. Being coachless -- especially when that coaching vacancy is a coordinator -- during the recruiting days of January turns each day into a dog day -- it feels seven times longer to the fan base and the potential recruits.

Granted, there's a real chance that Sunseri could return to Alabama for a pay raise and a lesser job, and that could create an avalanche of worry among the Big Orange nation.

That said, be aware of this two-way caveat: Hiring defensive assistants off of Nick Saban's staff should always be viewed with a well-trained eye. Yes, new UT AD Dave Hart got an up-close view of the Alabama staff during his time in Tuscaloosa, so he should know Sunseri's skill level.

But coaching defense for Saban is like coaching offense for Steve Spurrier, you may be in charge of a part of it -- maybe -- but that's Spurrier's offense and Saban's defense and there's no debating it. Period.

Let's put it this way: If you go to a restaurant and absolutely love the chef, are you going to hire the waiter to run your kitchen. We all know an uber-successful, control-freak like Saban is leaving nothing to chance. The Tide defense is Saban's defense and anyone who coaches it is doing so in title only (and yes, that includes Kirby Smart).

The same could be said in regard to recruiting. If you choose to believe that Sunseri or Smart or anyone this side of the Bear is the lead recruiter for the Tide, well, you have my permission to stop reading this column. Saban is Alabama's lead recruiter and anyone who thinks otherwise is simply unaware or uninformed.

We thought from the start that Dooley needed a home run hire in the public view. None of the names above -- including Sunseri -- appear to be a home run hire, although you could make an argument that Shannon still has enough name recognition to qualify. Dooley still needs a big-time hire, but as each pitch goes speeding past, it's becoming more and more apparent that the time to swing for that home run is now. Especially with a monster recruiting weekend just days away.

So it goes for a coach -- and a UT team -- that seems way more reactionary that proactive. How else would you describe a program that is waiting to hear if a linebackers coach will be its defensive coordinator?

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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Livn4life said...

Wow thanks for all the positivity Jay. So what, it's a search. I see no one making a big deal out of others who have to make hires at this time. But then when UT is embattled everyone weighs in on how bad it is. So the laughs keep on coming. Let me make a bold prediction. The Volunteers will find a Defensive Coordinator. Then I will await all the "yeah but..." statements on whomever it is.

January 12, 2012 at 6:24 a.m.
rdc919 said...

Two things you failed to mention:

  1. Sunseri's son (Vinnie, true freshman) a 5-time SEC special teams player of the week plus a contributor to Bama's defense will probably be a starter at the safety position next season.

  2. Why would Sunseri leave a position where he has a chance to make a major step up once Kirby Smart takes a head coaching job plus Dooley has a better than 50% chance of having a "one and done" season?

January 12, 2012 at 8:06 a.m.
Bumpkin said...

The real question is why ANYONE would choose to move to Tennessee and be surrounded by complete idiots and rednecks all day.

January 12, 2012 at 9:16 a.m.
AnotherVolFan said...

“Uncertainty” is a good word. But, divine intervention is our only hope for 2012.

Why would ANY coach (John Chavis?ha?)with a top notch school that has a bright future and a paycheck want to come to Tennessee for one year? That’s all it will be even if they pay them a million dollars. One and done! That’s why we lost three coaches while they had an opportunity on the table. They didn’t believe that divine intervention would kick in soon enough.

Looking at our 2012 schedule with home and ways, we’ll be lucky to win 4 games … Georgia State, Akron and maybe Kentucky and Troy just because they’re in Knoxville.

I’m not trying to be negative, just realistic. We lack talent, leadership (all levels), depth and experience.

I hope I’m wrong. I was in 2011. I predicted only three wins but Cincinnati and Vanderbilt messed me up.

January 12, 2012 at 9:17 a.m.

Jay, this is simply your re-write of comments being made on fan blogs, fan forums, and sports talk radio. Most of which come from teenagers and twentysomethings seeking teenager followers.

And yet, newspaper guys wonder why the print industry is dying...

January 12, 2012 at 10:18 a.m.
jomo11 said...

don't underestimate Buddy Green's close relationship with Thunder Thornton. . . . will be interesting to see how the local press, who was very hard on Buddy Green when he was at UTC, will now embrace him as the defensive savior for UTK.

your thoughts Jay ?

January 12, 2012 at 10:24 a.m.
wyldmon said...

Michigan State is proving to be a good home for transfers that are seeking a better education and disciplined athletic programs.

January 12, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
rdc919 said...

For Michigan's little sister, (to quote Lewis Grizzard) "Delta is ready when you are, I guarantee you!"

January 12, 2012 at 11:02 a.m.
Bumpkin said...


You sound like you know what you are talking about. If I was a betting man, I'd say you are not from the south. Or at a very minimum you have elevated yourself above the local 'necks.

January 12, 2012 at 11:25 a.m.
wyldmon said...

Thanks Bumpkin, you are correct. I graduated from MSU back in 1996 and moved here because there is a demand hard working, articulate men that don't dip.

January 12, 2012 at 12:15 p.m.
wyldmon said...

rdc919, I know you're not much into reading so let me break you some news: 1. It's not 1865 anymore. 2. MSU has beaten Ummm 4 straight years, convincingly. 3. MSU just beat the academically challenged program of Uggg. 4. MSU is 2-0 vs UT in basketball. Hopefully this education that I have provided you will be passed on to others in your trailer soon as you spit out your dip, and get off the couch of course!

January 12, 2012 at 12:48 p.m.
rdc919 said...

No matter what you say, MSU is still in Meeeechigan's shadow and is irrelevant on the national stage. Obviously, you are a typical blowhard yankee who thinks they are better than everyone else. It's hard to look in the mirror so you have to cut down everyone around you.

I guess you just can't get over the 49-7 whipping Bama put on "little sis" last year. Saban took out the starters midway thru the 3rd quarter which allowed even the 4th team to score.

January 12, 2012 at 1:47 p.m.
hcirehttae said...

It's a good thing nobody in the sports page comments engages in vitriolic personal attacks and stereotyping! Otherwise these comments would be/should be shut down like the news comments were.

By the way, what's a Vols Nation? I thought we were all (or mostly) just Americans. Did the University in Knoxville actually secede from the rest of us? Oh, I wish they would, and take the rest of college football with them...

January 12, 2012 at 3:17 p.m.
Bumpkin said...


Do you live in Alabama? Probably not Did you go to Alabama? Doubtful (unless you found a loophole that allowed a 9th grade dropout to enroll)

Why do you brag about them? I assure you that your t-shirt you bought at Walmart doesn't affiliate you with them.

Also, don't align yourself with any part of the State of Michigan. You simply don't stack up.

January 12, 2012 at 3:58 p.m.
wyldmon said...

rdc919, "no matter what you say" is probably how you start most conversations. That's why you are where you are, at the bottom of a totem poll. Here's some more breaking news: people up North that display car flags...actually went to those colleges. Crazy, I know. Thanks for the update on the score of times gone by, I'll do the's called 1865, and if there were a rematch, the outcome would be the same.

January 12, 2012 at 4:14 p.m.
wyldmon said...

I messed with Texas...twice.

January 12, 2012 at 4:25 p.m.
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