Alabama assistant coach Sal Sunseri gestures during NCAA college football team practice in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Tennessee has hired Sunseri to be its next defensive coordinator, Volunteers coach Derek Dooley announced Friday, Jan. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Tuscaloosa News, Dusty Compton)
KNOXVILLE - Alabama outside linebackers coach Sal Sunseri will be Tennessee's new defensive coordinator, two sources close to the UT program confirmed to the Times Free Press on Friday morning.
UT confirmed the hire later Friday morning, announcing that Sunseri will replace Justin Wilcox, who left the Volunteers after two seasons to be Washington's defensive coordinator.
"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,” UT coach Derek Dooley said in the school's release. “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."
Fresh off helping Alabama win the BCS national title earlier this week, Sunseri departs the Crimson Tide's staff after three seasons under coach Nick Saban. Sunseri was in Knoxville on Wednesday to interview for the position. He's never been a defensive coordinator for a Bowl Subdivision School, but he spent six seasons with the Carolina Panthers and has a reputation as an outstanding recruiter.
Sunseri will leave his son, Vinnie, who was a freshman safety and special-teams standout as a freshman for the Tide this season. Sal Sunseri's salary is expected to be in the same $750,000 range as Wilcox's.
"The chance to work with Derek Dooley, who has been around championships and knows what it takes to build an elite program, combined with the rich tradition of the University of Tennessee makes this opportunity so exciting to me,” Sunseri said in the release. “I am fired up to work with all of the young talent on the defensive side of the ball, and I can’t wait to get up to Knoxville and coach them."
Dooley has scheduled a news conference for this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. at Neyland Stadium.
More details and coverage online and in Saturday's Times Free Press.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...