I’ve been busy at work the last few weeks, and I thought about blogging a couple of times, but personally I prefer to blog on facts as opposed to rumors. Sal Sunseri and Sam Pittman were both hired this week, and by the time I had a chance to write, Derek Dooley stepped up and held a presser. So, another round of Dooleyisms follows!
On Sunseri and Pittman:
Obviously, a lot has happened since we last talked not long ago. We hired Sam Pittman as you know. Sam has done a great job the last five years at North Carolina. Some of these hires happen quickly. I know it looked odd. Some of them take forever. There’s no real rhyme or reason why. Every coach has different interests. They’re in a different situation. They have to go through diligence differently and we have to do the same thing. It just so happened the Sam thing fell on us quickly and I’m glad he’s a part of us. He’s going to do a great job…Of course we hired Sal (Sunseri) as our defensive coordinator. I first saw Sal in I think it was the 1983 (1982) Sugar Bowl. I was down there just a coach’s kid on the sideline and he was an All-American linebacker. I worked with Sal in 2000 at LSU andd eveloped a relationship with him and just watched his body of work over the last 10 years. I’m so excited he wanted to be a part of Tennessee. He’s an outstanding football coach. He’s an outstanding recruiter. He has great energy. He is an awesome human being. I think he’ll be a really good fit for us.
I’ve been reading a lot about both these hires and it’s hard to find a negative word. From a recruiting point, both hires are fantastic. As far as on the field performance, Pittman’s lines at North Carolina great improved under his watch. (I am looking at you Juwuan James, Zach Fulton, Alex Bullard, Marcus Jackson and Dallas Thomas anchors of our 107th ranked rushing attack.) Sal Sunseri has already made a recruiting impact. 6’6″ 380 lb nose tackle Daniel McCullers committed yesterday afternoon. Sunseri has also developed, Courtney Upshaw, Donta’ Hightower, and Nico Johnson for Alabama. I am legitimately excited to see what Sunseri can do with AJ Johnson and Curt Maggitt. All around great hires by coach Dooley.
On Roster departures:
Now, let me go to the roster. As every program has, we have a little attrition at the mid-year; DeAnthony Arnett, Martaze Jackson, Art Jeffery, Matt Milton, Nash Nance and Robert Nelson are no longer a part of the team, all for different reasons. Some of it is family, some of it academic pursuits, some of it opportunity to play at other places and we wish them well. We support them. We never like anybody to leave our program, but sometimes it’s in their best interest and it’s a good mutual parting of ways. We move on. JerQuari Schofield is here, but not a part of the team right now because he has a lot of work to do academically and I want him to focus on that.
Nance is going to Harvard, I love UT more than most everything on the earth outside of my family, but even I would admit that if you have a chance to go to Harvard, you go. He might play there as well. We’ve covered Arnett. Matt Milton has been an enormous disappointment since he arrived in Knoxville, this year having a grand total of 1 catch for 7 yards. Art Jeffrey seemed to have trouble staying eligible grade-wise. Martaze Jackson probably won’t ever see the field if he stays, and I don’t remember who Robert Nelson even is.
Let me update you on everybody. Ok, I’m just going down the list. Brent Brewer is eight weeks out, he is off his crutches and he is doing great. He’ll be out for the spring on his ACL. Alex Bullard, he had a little meniscus tear and he is fine. He is going to be full go. Alan Carson, he got scoped as well. He is on crutches probably for another week but he is going to be fine and full go for spring. Justin Hunter is doing really well. He is how many months out? He is running right now. He is right on track and doing great. Greg King had a meniscus tear and is doing, I think, better than he has been. He is going to be full go. Marlin Lane, same deal. He is full go. All of these postseason surgeries helped. You know about Da’Rick (Rogers). He will get his pins out in four weeks so he can’t really catch for another couple of months, but he should be full go for spring. He will be fine for spring. It’s going to limit him a little bit here. Marlon Walls was another scope guy on his knee. He will be full go for spring. He’s ready to go. Our shoulder guys, Daniel Hood, Curt Maggitt and Prentiss (Waggner), all had successful shoulder repairs. They are in slings and will be in slings for a little while. They are going to be non-contact in the spring, which obviously for Dan Hood, there is not much more you can do. For a guy like Prentiss, you can probably do a lot because of the position. Herman (Lathers) is doing good. He is full go. We’ll see how that goes.
All in all good news.
On Mid-Year enrollees:
You know we have seven mid-year guys. They look good. We are excited about Cody Blanc, Alden Hill, Justin Meredith, Nathan Peterman, Darrington Sentimore, Trent Taylor and Tino Thomas. No real issues with any of them right now. They are ready to go, they are in school and good.
Coaches love mid-term guys they get all spring to get bigger, faster, stronger, and better. It’s tremendous advantage, and the bonus is, if the kid is coming now, his grades are great. Blanc, is from Knoxville, he is listed right now as an athlete, but most think he’ll be a safety in the SEC. Hill from Alliance, OH, is a big bruising back cut from the Ron Dayne, Montee Ball, mold. (Am I saying he’ll be that good, no but, that’s his style.) Hill is from my neck of the woods, and he played against some pretty stiff high school competition. Meredith, is highly ranked by the recruiting services, but with Mike Rivera, Cam Clear, and Brendan Downs ahead of him, nobody will be surprised if he red-shirts. Peterman, like Justin Worley, wanted to play in a pro-style offense. Clearly he’ll be #3 on the depth chart at the start of spring. Sentimore is an interesting case, he played as a true freshman at Alabama, and played there last spring. For some reason, (attitude, grades?) he didn’t go back to Bama this summer, he went to Gulf Coast Community college. It’s safe to assume that he’ll be a viable contributor for the Vols in the fall. Of this group, Trent Taylor is my favorite. He comes from a great high school program in Lakeland, FL. He was solid to Miami, until all that crap hit the fan down there this summer. I think he is going to be Malik Jackson or better. Finally Tino Thomas signed last year, got hurt in the summer, grey-shirted, and now is back in Knoxville. He is a big corner from Memphis.
On Sal Sunseri’s defensive schemes:
He has called plays. He’s had four years of it before. Sal’s body of work is more than the three years with Nick (Saban). He had seven years with John Fox who, right now, is probably playing better defense than anybody in the NFL. He has a tremendous knowledge of football and, not only that, but everywhere he goes, his players perform. It was pretty simple for me…We talked a lot about it (schemes) and one of the reasons I went after Sal was because I felt like we needed to be a little more multiple and I felt like we needed to be a little more aggressive in situations of a game. Sal brings that. I think our personnel allows us to do a lot more because of the body types that we have and guys that we have recruited. That is going to be something that is important.
With the addition of McCullers, and linebackers like Johnson, and Maggitt, we certainly are built to be a special 3-4 team.
On where Sunseri and Pittman will recruit:
The Carolinas have always been a focus area. We haven’t done as good of a job as we probably could have. We’ve done a good job in some areas and haven’t done as good a job in others, but certainly given how close it is and the history of the great players from those states, yeah, we need to do a little better job in there.
Fulmer was a recruiting champ from DC to Savannah. There are a ton of good players in that area, if Pittman, Sunseri and Jay Graham, can help us there, wonderful.
On Sunseri coaching against his son Vinnie still at Alabama:
Well, I played against my dad. The only thing you learn from that experience is that the mom always pulls for the son. Roxanne (Sunseri’s) first comment was, `I can’t pull for you. I have to pull for Vinnie.’ That is the only thing I can tell you on that one
I am sure Roxanne Sunseri is not looking forward to October 20th. 2012.
On Herschel Walker, Sal Sunseri and Vince Dooley at the 1983 Sugar Bowl:
“Yeah, Herschel ran over Sal. That is a good memory. It was one of the great highlights. Sal came in a little high in his tackling technique and hadn’t hit a guy like that probably, but I wouldn’t bring that up to him. He wants that one back. (Pitt) won the game. There were two fourth and fives that game on the last drive. Georgia scored and (Dan) Marino comes back. On the first fourth-and-five, they run a quarterback draw which I think was the first time in his career that Marino ran one of those. Then the second, it might have been fourth-and-seven. Georgia ran a total blitz, a little out-and up for a touchdown. They asked dad, `If you had to do it all over again, would you run the blitz?’ He says, `Hell no, I already know the outcome to that.’ So, that is my memory of that game. And I cried
Don’t worry Sal, you aren’t the only guy to get steamrolled by Herschel Walker, he looks like he could still steamroll people now, and he’s nearly 50.
On the 25 Scholarship limit
That number is always a moving target. You can’t go past 25. You can, but I guess there will be consequences. You can do whatever you want.
Houston Nutt was always way over, it hasn’t worked out well for him. The NCAA is considering dropping scholarships from 85-80. That means 600 young men wouldn’t be getting football scholarships anymore. I have no idea they’re motive, other than that the NCAA is moronic.
On why Sunseri accepted this job.
I think Sal wants to coach at this level and probably would rather have an impact at this level than be in a different part of the country or a different league. I think the SEC and the NFL is appealing to Sal Sunseri as an assistant and I am sure there will be a time when he will want to be a head coach one day. Of course, you start getting different opinions when you are in charge. I just think the appeal of the NFL kept him there and then going back with Nick knowing he could go compete for a national championship and an SEC championship at a program like Alabama and I think he has the same sort of thinking about coming to Tennessee.
The SEC isn’t for everybody.
On coaching in the SEC:
I think it’s a big adjustment for some and I don’t think it’s a big adjustment for others. I think it’s a personality and a fit. Some people love coaching in this league and some people, you couldn’t pay them enough money to come coach in this league. That’s just the way it is. It’s ridiculously competitive every day, in recruiting and on the field. The scrutiny that you get every day is not like any other program and a lot of coaches don’t like that
Again, the SEC isn’t for everybody.
On whether he would’ve fired someone if people didn’t leave on their own:
I sit down every year, John, with all of our coaches. It’s important to have a professional dialogue. It has to be a two-way dialogue on how I think we did or how the coach did, good or bad, and his thoughts on where he is, our program and everything. Sometimes when you have those discussions, you get a lot better from them, both of you. Sometimes when you have those discussions, it causes you to think about maybe, `Is this the right fit?’ Sometimes when you have those discussions, you part ways. I do that with coaches every year. I think that’s important and I think it’s healthy. I ask them to give me the kind of feedback that I need as a head coach, honest opinions. I don’t think there’s any other way that you can grow as a program and as a coach if you don’t do that.
Translation: Heck yes, heads would’ve rolled. This is Dooley’s year to succeed or fail. He isn’t gonna fail without a fight.