Tennessee hires 'Bama coach Sunseri

Tennessee hires 'Bama coach Sunseri

Published Jan. 13, 2012 12:00 a.m. ET

Tennessee has hired Alabama assistant head coach Sal Sunseri to be its next defensive coordinator, Volunteers coach Derek Dooley announced Friday.

''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 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.''

Dooley has scheduled a news conference for Friday afternoon to talk about hiring Sunseri and changes on the Vols' roster.

Sunseri replaces Justin Wilcox, who left Jan. 2 to join the staff at Washington. Five assistants have left Tennessee since the end of the season, and Dooley has hired running backs coach Jay Graham and offensive line coach Sam Pittman in addition to Sunseri.


Sunseri has spent the past three seasons coaching the linebackers for the Crimson Tide, who won the BCS national championship game on Monday in addition to the 2009 national championship.

His linebackers were part of the nation's top defense in 2011 and included AP all-American Don't'a Hightower and second team all-American Courtney Upshaw.

''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 a statement. ''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.''

Before joining Alabama's staff, Sunseri spent seven years as an assistant for the NFL Carolina Panthers. He most recently was a defensive coordinator at Alabama A&M from 1998-1999. His 27-year career has included stops at Michigan State, LSU, Louisville, Illinois State, Iowa Wesleyan and his alma mater Pittsburgh, where he played as a linebacker from 1978-1981.

His younger son, Vinnie, is a freshman defensive back at Alabama, and his older son Tino, is the starting quarterback at Pittsburgh.