Vinnie Sunseri Had Thought Of Leaving

When Tennessee hired Sal Sunseri from the Alabama football coaching staff to be defensive coordinator for the Vols, under other circumstances the Big Orange might have gotten a bonus in a potential all-star safety.



Vinnie Sunseri didn't grow up an Alabama fan. He more or less came with the package when Sal Sunseri was hired by Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban to tutor linebackers. So when Coach Sunseri was hired by Derek Dooley at Tennessee, Vinnie's reason for being at Bama had moved to Knoxville.

"The reason I came here was because my family was here," Vinnie said.

The sophomore safety said, "I was never able to be with my dad because he was always out recruiting and coaching other players. That's one of the reasons I came here. Once he left, I was trying to figure out why I wanted to be here, why I'd stay here since my family was all leaving."

The answer was Nick Saban.

"He is someone I really ended up looking up to the whole time I've been here, especially with my dad leaving," Sunseri said. Coach Saban is the reason I stayed here."

Sunseri didn't say he had to be re-recruited.

"It wasn't too, too rough a decision," Sunseri said. "It was something I definitely had to sleep on for a night. Alabama was the place for me. I'm not going anywhere else."

He paused and grinned and added, "Or am I?"

No one bought it.

He said when players had an off week last weekend, he went to Knoxville to be with his family. Tennessee also had a bye week.

"He tried to get me fat," Vinnie said. "I gained about eight pounds up there.

"It was a good time. It was good seeing the family."

A week from Saturday Vinnie will return to Knoxville when the Crimson Tide takes on Tennessee. But before that, there's work to be done in Columbia, Mo. Bama will play against Missouri this Saturday with kickoff at 2:30 p.m. and television coverage by CBS.

Alabama is 5-0 and ranked first in the nation. Misssouri is 3-3 with all three losses coming to Southeastern Conference teams, including an upset loss to Vanderbilt in Columbia last weekend.

Sunseri was complimentary of the Missouri offense.

"They run a lot of empty formations, a lot of different formations that we haven't really seen a lot this year. It's going to be a challenge and we've got to get ready for it."

Sunseri, a 6-0, 218-pounder who starts at nickel and has four starts this year, has been in on 19 tackles, 13 of them as the primary defender. He has two tackles for loss, a f,umble recovery, two pass break-ups, and an interception he returned 13 yards.

He said the team was preparing for Missouri as if quarterback James Franklin would play. Franklin has been counted out of the game with a knee injury. Corbin Berkstresser, a redshirt freshman, is expected to be at quarterback for the Tigers.

"They're a great offense and we're excited," Sunseri said. "We're excited for the opportunity. We're really looking forward to someone throwing the ball on us. We're all trying to go out there and play our best. The coaches are putting us in great positions to make plays and we're just got to keep playing."

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