A trademark of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team is its number one ranked defense nationally.
One of the main components in a defensive machine that only allows 8.8 points per game is linebackers coach/assistant head coach Sal Sunseri, a name that has been frequently mentioned for Illinois head coach.
Under the guidance of Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban, Sunseri and his fellow staff members have put together an 11-1 record, with the one loss coming to #1 ranked LSU. Alabama finished second in the SEC West, is ranked #2 in the nation, and has a shot to play in the National Championship.
Sunseri's coaching career began in 1985 as the Pittsburgh DL/LB coach from 1985-1992, and he served as the interim head coach for the team's final game of the 1992 season.
Sunseri then spent one year at Iowa Wesleyan as assistant head coach, defensive coordinator, and special teams coach in 1993 and another year at Illinois State as defensive coordinator in 1994.
He then moved on to become linebacker coach at Louisville from 1995-1997, defensive coordinator and linebacker coach at Alabama A&M from 1998-1999, and linebacker and special teams coach at LSU in 2000. He then took on the same role at Michigan State in 2001.
Sunseri spent time in the NFL as the Carolina Panthers's defensive line coach from 2002-2008, where he coached the likes of Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers.
In 2009, Sunseri accepted the spot as linebacker and assistant head coach at the University of Alabama. In his first season there, he helped guide the Crimson Tide to a National Championship with a defense that ranked second nationally in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense. In 2010, the Crimson Tide defense ranked third nationally in scoring defense and fifth in total defense.
Again in 2011, Alabama's defense is among the best, giving up just 191.3 yards and 8.8 points per game. And to award the success Sunseri has had this season, he has been named one of five finalist for the Broyles Award, given out annually to the nation's top assistant coach.
Not only is Sunseri a top-notch coach, but he is also among the best recruiters in the nation. Sunseri was named 2011 National Recruiter of the Year after landing seven commitments—two three-star prospects, four four-star prospects, and one five-star recruit.
Prior to his coaching career, Sunseri was a linebacker for the University of Pittsburgh from 1978-1981. He was a three-year starter and was named a team captain and All-American his senior year. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1982 NFL Draft but sustained a career ending knee injury during training camp.
WHY SUNSERI WOULD BE A GOOD FIT AT ILLINOIS: Although Sunseri has never been in the position of a full-time head coach, he has had plenty of coaching experience throughout the years. He is also an outstanding recruiter. And he has worked under the example of Nick Saban, one of the best coaches in college football.
WHY SUNSERI MAY NOT BE A GOOD FIT FOR ILLINOIS: Sunseri has yet to experience life as a head coach, and stepping into a program like Illinois that has high expectations would a difficult task. Also, he is not one of the big names that everyone likes to talk about, so early fan support may be a concern.