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New UT Corners Coach Ansley Studied Bama’s Saban

Tennessee is looking more and more like Alabama-North.  Head football coach Derek Dooley is an ex-Nick Saban aide.  The school’s new AD — Dave Hart — and a number of his aides came from Tuscaloosa, too.  So did new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri who’s brought Saban’s 3-4 scheme to Knoxville.

Sunseri also brought in cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley.  Ansley — before a very brief stop at UCF — was a GA at Bama and he says he kept his eyes locked on Saban during his time with the Crimson Tide:


“He’s been coaching DBs for 37 or 38 years.  So in the time I spent with him, I said, ‘I got past a lot of coaches.’  He’s really, really good at what he does.  I was very blessed to go down there and work with him…

The first couple of months, I tried to kind of shadow him.  I learned how he wanted things.  I just tried to get two steps ahead of him and anticipate what he wanted.  When you stay even with a coach like that, you’re getting behind.”


It makes sense for an SEC school to try to mimic the success of Saban and Alabama.  But any Vol fan expecting a former grad assistant to be able to replicate much of Saban’s style and savvy is probably setting himself up for disappointment.

After all, Dooley worked with Saban for a lot longer time than Ansley did… and no one’s confusing him for his old boss just yet.  (Ditto Jimbo Fisher.  Ditto Will Muschamp.)

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Sunseri Leaves Bama To Join UT Staff

In 2009, it looked like the Tennessee football program would become Southern Cal East.  Now it appears the whole UT athletic department is becoming Alabama North.

Alabama linebackers coach and assistant head coach Sal Sunseri has officially joined the Tennessee staff as defensive coordinator.  The coach landed a three-year deal in Knoxville worth $800,000 per season.

“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,” Derek Dooley said via press 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.”

Sunseri — as well as defensive line coach Lance Thompson — coached under Nick Saban at Alabama.  Dooley coached under Saban at LSU and with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.  The Tennessee athletic department is headed up by former Tide associate AD Dave Hart and a number of his former UA aides.  If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

For Dooley, Sunseri is a quality hire.  And a much needed one considering the turnover on his staff in recent weeks.  The fact that the Vols’ new defensive coordinator just won a BCS title with Bama on Monday can’t hurt on a big recruiting weekend.

Now the question is — does Thompson stay or does he bolt for South Carolina?  His name has come up in connection with the Gamecocks’ linebackers vacancy.

Sunseri’s departure from Tuscaloosa leaves Saban with two holes to fill on his staff: offensive coordinator and linebackers.  Brian Schottenheimer, Doug Nussmeier and Dirk Koetter are in the running for the OC job.

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