No regrets

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Rewind to December 5, 2011. Then South Carolina running backs coach Jay Graham was preparing for the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., with the No. 13 Gamecocks and had former freshman All-American Marcus Lattimore rehabbing for a comeback season of extreme promise.

What would cause you to pack your bags in such a situation? For Graham, it was the draw of his alma mater — The University of Tennessee.

"I would do it again," Graham told reporters Wednesday. "I love my University. I like this place and what we could do. I wouldn't think about it if I had a second opportunity to do it."

With the Big Orange Ship submerging into the depths, the question has to be raised — does the coaching staff at Tennessee regret making the move to Knoxville?

For Tennessee offensive line coach Sam Pittman it has been a little bit trying. Not only has Pittman led the Vol offensive line to a remarkable turn-around season, but he has become close his players.

"I think it makes it harder for those guys," Pittman said. "If the University of Tennessee doesn't retain me they are going to find somebody that will come in here and do a nice job.

"Obviously, I would like to be a part of it, but it is one of those things — that is my style, I get close to the guys. I am not a buddy-buddy guy, but I get close to them because they know I care about them."

Under the tutelage of Pittman, Tennessee is tied for third in the country in sacks allowed with just seven in eleven contests, behind only Air Force (3) and North Texas (6), who have combined for 451 passing attempts, while the Vols have dropped back 443 times. And in the process Pittman has made himself one heck of a candidate for retention.

"It didn't hurt," said Pittman of the vast improvement. "The only thing is the new coach is that the new coach could either have an (offensive) line coach that he is familiar with and likes or he doesn't. Obviously if he then I will have to go find other employment, but if he doesn't hopefully I will have a chance to visit with him."

On the other end, defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri's performance has likely forged quite the setback in his professional career after leading a Tennessee defense that is currently ranked 110 of 120 FBS schools in 2012.

However, Sunseri, who left now defending Naitonal Champion and current No. 2 Alabama and his son, Vinny Sunseri, to come to Tennessee, doesn't regret his decision despite the results.

"No, it is like anything else, you take anything in life — you are always taking a chance whatever you do," Sunseri said. "My wife and my family knew what we were doing. We came up here and we wanted to do better for the University of Tennessee.

"We wanted to be better for the Vol Nation. I am telling everyone here thank you for the opportunity. I have been telling everyone here it has been a great experience for me and my family. We have been treated first class."

Watch as select Tennessee assistant coaches addressed the media following Wednesday's practice at Haslam Field.

Jay Graham

Sam Pittman

Sal Sunseri

Darin Hinshaw


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