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D-Coordinator Jancek Eager To See How Vols Respond To Adversity

vol-defense-run-throughIn 2012, the Tennessee defense broke school records for futility.  Finishing 14th in a 14-team SEC in total defense and scoring defense, the Volunteers surrendered 2,266 yards on the ground and 3,390 yards through the air.  They were battered for a grand total of 5,656 yards, a 6.13 yards-per-play average, and 428 points, including 53 touchdowns.

The basic math?  UT’s foes averaged 35.7 points and 471.3 yards per game.

Needless to say, new defensive coordinator John Jancek wonders how his players will react when the breaks go against them:


“That’s really my concern with this group in a first ball game.  Hey, if something bad happens, maybe they get a big pass, or there’s a turnover, or they get a long run, or there’s something that happens to change the momentum on special teams — how are we going to respond as a defense.  That’s what I’m probably paying most attention to.”


Tennessee’s new defense is reportedly much simpler than the complex/confusing/confounding scheme drawn up by one-and-done coordinator Sal Sunseri a year ago.  At the very least, the Vols shouldn’t set any new lows when it comes to school history.

The Volunteers open against Austin Peay on Saturday.  That needs to be a confidence-builder for a group that will face Bobby Petrino’s Western Kentucky squad and then travel to Oregon and Florida before the end of September.

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UT’s Dooley Quotes Bruce Hornsby, Says D-Coordinator Sunseri May Move To Press Box

When in doubt, quote Bruce Hornsby.  Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.  (Hat tip to those who got that line.)

During his Monday meeting with the Knoxville press, Derek Dooley said that he was about to get more involved with UT’s woeful defense and that embattled defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri might move to the press box:


“I’m coming out of the offensive room and putting all my attention on defense…

(Regarding criticism of Sunseri) Like Bruce Hornsby and the Range, that’s just the way it is.”


The Volunteers gave up 721 yards of total offense to Troy in a 55-48 last-minute win on Saturday.

And now a little flashback to January 10th, 1987, when Bruce and his Range were ruling over the Billboard charts at #1.


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SEC Headlines – 4/20/12 Part Two

1.  Will Muschamp does “exit interviews” with the players who leave his program in order to find out things they might not share with their position coaches.

2.  Now he’s preparing for a few more as some transfers are expected in Gainesville.

3.  Georgia put special emphasis on kick coverage this spring.

4.  Kentucky will begin to upgrade the locker room at Rupp Arena next month.

5.  Exiting Cat hoopster Michael Kidd-Gilchrist sat down for a bye-bye Q&A this week.

6.  There’s more than the traditional steaks (correct spelling) on the line heading into Tennessee’s Orange and White Game.

7.  Vol defenders have spent the spring learning new roles in Sal Sunseri’s 3-4 scheme.

8.  Senior Vanderbilt corner Eddie Foster spent the spring trying to win back his old starting job.

9.  Missouri loses a top associate athletic director to Southeast Missouri State.

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UT’s Sunseri Prepared To Go To Bat For Bama’s Sunseri

As we noted last week, the closer we get to football season — especially the Alabama-Tennessee game this October — the more you’ll be hearing about new Vol defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri and his relationship with his son, Tide linebacker Vinnie Sunseri.

Another dose of The Suneris was published today, this time with the father explaining just how difficult it was for him to leave his son in Tuscaloosa for a better job title in Knoxville:

“When I made this decision, I sat in that office down there, and both of us looked at each other, and we both cried.  And it was hard.  It was really hard.  But the bottom line is everybody has to go and do what they’re supposed to do in life and fulfill their dreams.  He’s fulfilling his dream, and I always wanted to be a coordinator, and I’m thankful that Derek Dooley gave me this opportunity to come up here…

(My son and I) love each other to death.  And it doesn’t matter whether you’re wearing orange or you’re wearing crimson and all that — that’s my son… I’m a parent first before I’m a coach on another team.  That’s what everybody has to understand.  That’s my son.  I will got to bat for him.  I’ll do everything I need to do.”

No fans on either side should hold one thing against either the father or the son in this case.  The son loves life at Bama.  The father got career advancement at Tennessee.

Life trumps football.

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The Sunseris Aren’t Split By Bama-UT Rivalry

Vinnie Sunseri is a sophomore safety at Alabama.  His father Sal Sunseri — a former Tide linebackers coach — is now the defensive coordinator at Tennessee.  But according to Sunseri the Younger, the rivalry between the SEC’s two all-time top programs isn’t coming between the two:

“He asks how practice goes.  I ask how practice goes.  I’m still his son and he’s still my dad.  I just try to talk to him like that…  We joke around.  I’ll say he doesn’t look good in that orange, and he’ll ay I don’t look good in that crimson, just little jokes like that.”

Get ready to hear much, much more about this story leading up to the October battle between the Tide and the Vols.

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UT’s Sunseri Preparing His Players For Everything

When Justin Wilcox left for Washington and Derek Dooley hired ex-Alabama linebackers coach Sal Sunseri to head up Tennessee’s defense, the third-year coach said his Vols would be more “multiple.”

Sunseri’s approach this spring has been just that and he hopes it pays off for his team this fall:

“The game of football right now is a bunch of changes, strength, motions, different looks and all that.  You have to give them the tough things early so they adjust to the tough things early, because when the easy things come, it makes it that much easier.

We’re going to prepare them for every situation.  That’s our job as coaches.  We’re going to get them right, and they’re going to fly to the football, and they’re going to know what they’re supposed to do.”

With his neck most likely on the line this season, Dooley’s squad is switching from a base 4-3 defense to a base 3-4.  How well his players pick up Sunseri’s system could decide both men’s fate.

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Morning Notes From The Coaching Carousel

We’ll pick up this morning where we left off last evening… on the coaching carousel.  Here are the latest moves and rumored moves from across the SEC, starting with the last remaining head coaching vacancy.


* Texas A&M interviewed Southern Miss’ Larry Fedora twice, but North Carolina appears to have (finally) sealed the deal with the C-USA champion coach.  Fedora is a College Station native — and he was the top choice for many Aggie fans — but it looks like that ship has now sailed.

All told, just about every name but Knute Rockne’s has been attached to the job, but that’s a product of some serious spin.  A&M officials are leaking big-time names to give their job a boost and several agents are floating their clients’ names to build their cred.  Mark Richt, Kyle Whittingham, Dabo Swinney, Art Briles, Charlie Strong and Dan Mullen (of course), have all been tied to the job via reports and/or rumors.

In reality, it looks like the Aggies are headed toward Houston’s Kevin Sumlin, though Air Force’s Troy Calhoun reportedly interviewed well.



* Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has interviewed for the A&M job.  But it’s not believed he’s near the top of the Aggies’ list.  In fact, his counterpart at Alabama may leave Tuscaloosa before Smart.

Offensive coordinator Jim McElwain is one of the finalists for the job and internet reports claim he is already working on terms with the Tigers.  If he does land the Memphis job, we’d like to wish him and his head coaching career well… because neither will be heard from again.  If Miami of Ohio is the “cradle of coaches,” then Memphis is the graveyard.

Another Alabama coach has also been connected to a new job via the rumor mill…


* Arkansas is looking for a new defensive coordinator following the dismissal of Willy Robinson yesterday and Tide assistant head coach and linebackers coach Sal Sunseri is a candidate.

Former Arizona head coach Mike Stoops, Joe Whitt Jr., and Mike Gillhamer have also been connected to the job via online reports and scuttlebutt that we’ve picked up from speaking to folks close to the UA program.


* One name that rarely pops up in connection to head coaching jobs is that of LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis.  But he remains one of the game’s top assistants as evidenced by his winning the 2011 Broyles Award yesterday, an honor that goes to the season’s top assistant coach.

Chavis beat out former Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee and Alabama linebackers coach Sal Sunseri among others.


* Yesterday, South Carolina lost running backs coach Jay Graham to Tennessee.  Today, Ellis Johnson — the Cocks’ assistant head coach, assistant coach of defense, and linebackers coach — is reportedly a leading candidate for the head coaching job at Southern Miss.  Carolina’s de facto defensive coordinator has ties to Mississippi, but he has deeper ties to Columbia and the Palmetto State.  From speaking to connections at USC, we would be surprised if Johnson departed.


* Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has said that he wants to be a head coach at some point.  Last year he turned down overtures from Vanderbilt and Maryland.  Initially he was expected to be a serious contender for the North Carolina job, but it appears that was not to be.

His name is currently being mentioned with regards to the open job at Kansas, but would a man who passed on Vandy and Maryland jump to a comparable, bottom-of-the-league job in the Big 12?  We expect Malzahn to be back at Auburn next year.


* At Mississippi State, fans are once again having to deal with rumors of their head coach exiting.  Mullen — as noted above — had his name tied to the vacancy at Texas A&M earlier this week.  His name continues to pop up in connection with the Penn State opening as well, though the coach denied last week that there was anything to those initial reports.

At the very least, Mullen’s agent likes to float his client’s name whenever a top job becomes available.

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PSU’s Bradley Meets With UConn, Might Open The Door For Sunseri At Pitt

Alabama linebackers coach Sal Sunseri interviewed for the vacant (again) Pitt head coaching job last week.  But Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley is believed to be the front-runner for the job.  Now that could be changing.

Bradley met with the athletic director at UConn yesterday regarding that school’s opening.  It seems Bradley is in the enviable position of having two Big East schools competing for his services.

If Bradley lands in Storrs, it could open the door for Sunseri at Pitt.  Unless Panther AD Steve Pederson decides to chase Tulsa’s Todd Graham instead.

At this point, Sunseri appears to be a fall-back candidate at best.

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