Sunseri lifts cloud over Knoxville

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Sal Sunseri is just a few days removed from an AllState BCS National Title game victory, 21-0 over the No. 1 LSU Tigers, but his joy was short-lived. InsideTennessee has confirmed that Sunseri will now call the defensive shots for Derek Dooley as Tennessee's defensive coordinator.

Sunseri, a former All-American linebacker at the University of Pittsburgh, met with Derek Dooley Wednesday to discuss the position and accepted the position shortly there after.

The former assistant head coach and linebackers coach of the University of Alabama, Sunseri spent three years under Nick Saban with the Tide. He was named a 2011 Broyles Award finalist for the nation's top assistant coach.

Sunseri has coached linebackers such as Rolando McClain, a former first-round NFL draft pick, Dont'a Hightower and most recently the BCS National Championship defensive MVP Courtney Upshaw.

Before his most recent three-year stay at Alabama, Sunseri garnered national attention for his supreme coaching with the Carolina Panthers. Sunseri's defensive line with the Panthers was regarded as one of the best in the NFL.

Defensive ends Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker and defensive tackle Kris Jenkins earned Pro Bowl honors during Sunseri's tenure. He produced at least one Pro Bowl defensive lineman in five of six seasons as defensive line coach with the Panthers.

Sunseri began his coaching career at his alma mater as a defensive line and linebackers coach from 1985 to 1992. He was also named the interim head coach for the final game of the 1992 season, which result in the 36-23 loss to Hawaii.

Other coaching stops include Iowa Wesleyan ('93), Illinois State (DC, '94), Louisville (LB, '95-97), Alabama A&M (DC/LB, '98-99), LSU (LB/ST, '00) and Michigan State (LB/ST, '01).

As a player, Sunseri attended the University of Pittsburgh where he played from 1978 to 1981. A former walk-on, Sunseri became a three-year starter for the Panthers and was a key player in a defense that led the NCAA in total defense in 1980 and 1981. He went to the NFL and was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1982 NFL Draft. He later suffered a career-ending knee injury during training camp.

Sunseri is married to the former Roxann Evans, who was a varsity gymnast at Pittsburgh. The couple has two daughters, Jaclyn and Ashlyn, and two sons, Santino (a quarterback at Pittsburgh) and Vinnie (a defensive back at Alabama).

The hiring of Sunseri comes just nine days after the announcement that Justin Wilcox and Peter Sirmon would depart Dooley's staff to pursue coaching at the University of Washington.

Head coach Derek Dooley is scheduled to meet with the media Thursday or Friday of this week to discuss roster-related issues according to the Tennessee Sports Information Department.

Sunseri was out front on the recruitment of 2012 Alabama targets Ronald Darby, Eddie Goldman, Javiie Mitchell, Noah Spence and Marcus Turner.


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