’Bama connection changes UT’s look
Posted: Thursday, February 9, 2012 7:00 pm
By BETH RUCKER
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Sal Sunseri and John Palermo have seen plenty of different defensive schemes in their combined 64 years of coaching. That should come in handy as they try to transform the Tennessee defense into a more multiple unit capable of competing with the top Southeastern Conference teams.
“In this day and age you have to be multiple,” said Palermo, who is the Volunteers’ new defensive line coach. “You can’t line up in one thing. The offenses are too good. The development from what (the Vols coaches have) done so far and looking at what Sal has done (in the past), it’s going to be pretty multiple.”
As Tennessee’s new defensive coordinator, Sunseri has plans to install a 3-4 defensive style. Sunseri said Wednesday in his first appearance at Tennessee that he wants to form a defense that plays tough no matter what kind of defensive scheme they’re in.
Sunseri and Palermo are among six new coaches on Derek Dooley’s staff heading into the 2012 season. The final addition came Friday when Dooley added Derrick Ansley as cornerbacks coach.
The group has just over six weeks to mesh as a staff before Tennessee’s spring practice session begins on March 26.
Though the process of transforming the defense may take time, Sunseri feels the Vols can do a lot with eight starters returning. Sunseri, who spent the past three seasons as Alabama linebackers coach and previously was an assistant with the NFL Carolina Panthers, replaced Justin Wilcox, who left in January to become the defensive coordinator at Washington.
“I’m watching tape and we just looked at a game this morning,” Sunseri said. “If they clean up their techniques and do what they’re supposed to do, they have a chance to be pretty darn good. I put a lot of faith in my coaching ability. I put a lot of faith in the rest of the coaches that are here right now. Derek did a great job of getting the guys here.”
Dooley was tasked with rebuilding Tennessee after back-to-back coaching turnovers left the program in shambles. After a disappointing 2011 season that saw the Vols finish 5-7 and lose to Kentucky for the first time in 26 seasons.
Tennessee underwent a brutal schedule that included consecutive games against BCS national champion contenders Alabama and LSU.
“It’s the closest thing to the National Football League, being in the SEC, than any other conference in the country,” Sunseri said. “In my mind, any week you can get beat in the SEC. Any week in the NFL, you can get beat. My whole thing is every week to get them ready to go psychologically, get them in that disposition that we’re not going to be denied and then go out there and play big-time college football.”
Palermo has two years of experience coaching the NFL Washington Redskins’ defensive line and has coached at 11 other college programs.
“This is going to be my 38th year of coaching here coming up,” he said. “I’ve been around the block a few times. I’ve always thought of myself as a fundamental football coach, a teacher, not necessarily the guy who was worried about how many sacks we had and that sort of thing, but are we playing good football? I think I can bring that to the players.”
Published in The Messenger 2.9.12