Kirby Smart on Staff, Players

University of Alabama Defensive Coordinator/Secondary Coach Kirby Smart was one of the main speakers at the 15th annual Wade Office Equipment L'Arche Football Preview in Mobile this spring. He commented to 'BAMA Magazine on staff changes and personnel before addressing the audience.

Coach Kirby Smart discussed the two new members of the Alabama football coaching staff, James Willis, associate head coach/linebackers, formerly at Auburn; and Sal Sunseri, assistant head coach/linebackers, from the Carolina Panthers of the NFL.

Smart said, "Both are great guys, great recruiters and have come into our program and helped us so much. James had a lot of experience playing linebacker. He's fortunate to be coaching two of the best in the business (Rolando McClain and Dont'a Hightower). He's done a good job of maturing those guys and mentoring those guys.

"Coach Sal does an unbelievable job with our outside backers and defensive ends. He was a pass rush specialist at Carolina. He's helped us improve our pass rushing game which is big for us."

"We were 11th or 12th in the SEC, and we've got to improve on that. We think he's going to be a big asset for the total defense."

Two local products from Mobile/Baldwin County competing at the safety position, Mark Barron of St. Paul's (Mobile) and Robert Lester of Foley seemed to be on track to make contributions during the 20009 season albeit in different areas according to Smart.

Barron played in all 14 games as a true freshman registering 18 total tackles, nine solo including 1.5 sacks (-11 yards). He was a starter on the kickoff coverage unit and reserve in the secondary. Lester's redshirt year was spent improving his strength and studying the defensive schemes.

Coach Smart spoke about both players as individuals and their projected roles for the 2009 season.

He said, "Both of them are great kids. Both of them are great competitors, and we're looking for great things out of both of them."

"Mark will be fighting for a starting job, and Robert is going to be a guy we hope can contribute on special teams and do a lot of good things. Both of them work really hard in the weight room. We're excited about both those kids. Robert has gotten a lot bigger and stronger. He's a mature kid."

Coach Smart remarked about the development of both players: "Probably knowledge of the game and experience which they can't get without going out there and playing. We run some things on defense that sometimes they struggle with, but both of them come in everyday. They want to meet, want to do the right things, and they want to be good players which is about 90 per cent of it."

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