Tag:Sal Sunseri
Posted on: January 24, 2012 4:26 pm
 

SEC East coordinator hires: thumbs up or down?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With all 28 positions now filled, here's one team-by-team assessment of where the SEC stands at the two most important assistant coaching positions. Yesterday, the West. Today, the East:

FLORIDA

2011: Charlie Weis as the offensive coordinator, Dan Quinn defensive.

Departures: Weis famously left for the Kansas head coaching position.

2012: Weis has been replaced by Boise State coordinator Brent Pease.

Thumbs up/down? TBD. Weis had his moments (offensively speaking, anyway) at Notre Dame, but they nearly all came via the arms of Brady Quinn or Jimmy Clausen and the Irish's cadre of top-notch receivers--making him a terrible fit for both Will Muschamp's visions of an Alabama-like ground game and the Gators' pass-poor personnel. On paper, replicating the Broncos' balanced mix-and-match approach should be a much snugger fit. But Pease arrives with just one season of play-calling experience under his belt, and at that a season in which Boise ran the ball much more poorly than they had in recent years (34th in average yards per-carry, down from 10th in both 2009 and 2010). And thanks in large part to iffy quarterback play, Texas's 2011 attempt to import the Boise offense (via Pease predecessor Bryan Harsin) hardly set the world on fire--an ill omen for a team whose current QBs, sophomores Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett, looked out of their depth as freshmen. Pease has promise, but the jury is very much out.

GEORGIA

2011: Mike Bobo offensive, Todd Grantham defensive.

Departures: Status quo.

Thumbs up/down? Up, obviously. Bobo managed the offense as well as could be expected given the injury-struck units at running back and receiver, and Grantham came into his own as one of the SEC's hottest coordinating commodities after piloting his young Dawgs to a top-five finish in total D. Richt has no reason to consider change at either slot.

KENTUCKY

2011: Randy Sanders offensive, Rick Minter and Steve Brown defensive.

Departures: Brown was fired after the 'Cats finished 10th in the SEC and 58th nationally.

2012: Minter has been promoted to full defensive coordinator.

Thumbs up/down? Down. Despite Brown's dismissal, Minter's role as play-caller and lead defensive game-planner means that Joker Phillips is keeping things almost entirely status quo--the entire 2011 offensive coaching staff will return, for instance, even after the hapless 'Cats finished a miserable 118th nationally in total offense and 117th in scoring. Phillips' loyalty to Sanders and the rest of his staff is admirable (and the upset of Tennessee was undoubtedly sweet), but if those kinds of numbers aren't enough to cause a shakeup, what would be?

MISSOURI

2011: David Yost offensive, David Steckel defensive.

Departures: None.

Thumbs up/down? Up. These are the Daves Gary Pinkel knows, and after several productive seasons in Columbia (if not spectacular where 2011 was concerned), there's no reason to make a change before testing their mettle in the SEC.

SOUTH CAROLINA

2011: Steve Spurrier is his own OC; Ellis Johnson ran the defense.

Departures: Johnson took the head coaching position at Southern Miss. 

2012: Spurrier promoted defensive backs coach (and "defensive coordinator" in title only) Lorenzo Ward to replace Johnson.

Thumbs up/down? Tentatively up. Ward spent three years leaning Johnson's schemes and already assisted with a similar 4-2-5 approach during his time at Virginia Tech; his promotion means the already successful Gamecock defense (fourth in FBS total D in 2011) won't change much -- if any -- from a schematic standpoint. The only question is if Ward can reproduce Johnson's adept in-game adjustments (see the Gamecocks' second-half shutdown of Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl) and excellent situational play-calling. If he can even come close, the Gamecock D shouldn't miss too many beats.

TENNESSEE

2011: Jim Chaney offensive, Justin Wilcox defensive.

Departures: Wilcox took the same position at Washington.

2012: Wilcox has been replaced by Alabama linebackers coach Sal Sunseri.

Thumbs up/down? TBD. The Sunseri hire alone would get a thumbs-up, since it's doubtful the Vols could have done much better than the man who just helped put together one of college football's all-time great defenses--not to mention was widely believed to be being groomed to replace Kirby Smart when the current Tide DC finally takes a head job. While it's hardly guaranteed Sunseri can replicate the Tide defense in Knoxville any more than Pease can replicate the Boise offense in Gainesville, there's no arguing with attempting that replication after what the Crimson Tide D has accomplished of late. 

The question is if Derek Dooley should have also looked for a replacement for Chaney. Following Lane Kiffin's departure, Chaney's two years in sole charge of the Vol offense have produced a slide from 60th (in 2009) to 75th to an awful 104th in total offense. Chaney has without question been dealt a rough hand, having been forced to deal with widespread inexperience as well as catastrophic injuries, and a little bit of continuity on a staff already wracked by upheaval is a major positive. So we don't blame Dooley for standing pat in the OC's chair ... though if Chaney can't engineer a dramatic turnaround in 2012, we suspect there's plenty of Vol supporters who will.

VANDERBILT

2011: John Donovan offensive, Bob Shoop defensive.

Departures: None.

Thumbs up/down? Well up. The Commodore offense only ranked 81st in yards per-play, that was still a far sight better than the 111th they managed in 2010. Meanwhile, Shoop quietly pulled off one of the nation's most impressive coordinating jobs by pulling the 'Dores up from 76th to 14th in the same statistic. Clearly, there's no call for James Franklin to change things up at this stage.

For all of Eye on CFB's SEC coverage, click here.

Thanks to TeamSpeedKills' helpful "Coaching Carousel Scorecard." 
 

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Posted on: January 15, 2012 10:58 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2012 10:58 pm
 

Coach swap: Tide hires Vols' Thompson as LB coach

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Three years ago, Alabama hired Sal Sunseri to replace linebackers coach Lance Thompson, hired away by Tennessee. So now that Sunseri has also been hired away by the Vols, as Derek Dooley's new defensive coordinator, who has Nick Saban tabbed to replace him? Why, he's hired Lance Thompson, of course. 

That's according to multiple reports Sunday, which cited sources in claiming Thompson will return to the same Crimson Tide linebackers-coaching position he left in 2008 when Lane Kiffin lured him Tuscaloosa. Thompson coached the Vols' linebackers for two years before moving to defensive line duties this season.

Thompson becomes the sixth Tennessee assistant to depart the Volunteer program this off-season. Receivers coach Charlie Baggett retired; previous defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon left to join Steve Sarkisian at Washington; offensive line coach Harry Hiestand left to take the same position at Notre Dame; and special teams coach Eric Russell joined Mike Leach at Washington State.

With the hires of Sunseri at DC, former Vol star Jay Graham at running backs coach, and North Carolina's Sam Pittman as the new offensive line coach, Dooley is doing his best to stop the bleeding. But Thompson's departure will leave a substantial mark nonetheless, especially this close to Signing Day; he's long been recognized as one of the SEC's best recruiters, a major factor in his having been hired by Saban in the first place, by Kiffin in 2008, and -- no doubt -- now by Saban a second time. (That the Crimson Tide head coach is willing to bring Thompson aboard a second time despite his earlier decision to hitch his wagon to Kiffin -- whose antics in Knoxville Saban is widely believed to have loathed -- speaks to how highly Saban thinks of his coaching and recruiting acumen.)

There's little doubt that hiring an up-and-comer like Sunseri away from his archrivals was something of a coup for Dooley, and a major positive for his under-fire Knoxville tenure. But every step forward for Dooley and the Vols seems like it's matched by one backwards these days, and it's no real surprise that one that came at the expense of Saban and Alabama was so quickly returned in kind.

For more on the Vols and Crimson Tide, follow CBSSports.com's Tennessee RapidReports by Daniel Lewis and Alabama RapidReports by Jim Dunn.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview. Like us? Tell our Facebook page.

Posted on: August 9, 2011 12:18 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2011 12:20 pm
 

Graham expects Pitt to run 80+ plays a game

Posted by Chip Patterson

Picked in the top two of the Big East by most preseason polls, it is fair to say there are some high expectations of Todd Graham's first year as the Pittsburgh head coach. The school has made the former Tulsa coach the new face of the football program, even using his "high-octane" theme to market the football team at http://www.highoctanefootball.com.

So what exactly does Graham expect from his "high-octane" football?

"Our goal is to run 81 or 82 plays per game, and I believe that as long as we protect the ball, we're going to be able to do that," Graham said as the Panthers opened camp on Monday.

In 2010, West Virginia led the Big East averaging 69.8 plays per game and the Panthers were fifth averaging just under 64. If the new no-huddle attack does produce 81 or 82 plays per game, it would rank them among the top offenses in the nation - where Graham's Tulsa team was a year ago.

There is no reason to think that the Panthers can't achieve their goal with the personnel on the field. Junior quarterback Tino Sunseri, son of Alabama linebackers coach Sal Sunseri, is a fast learner and has reportedly improved with the move to a shotgun formation. All-conference receiver Jon Baldwin may be gone, but Mike Shanahan (43 catches, 589 yards in 2010) and 6-foot-4 sophomore Devin Street will serve as the perfect compliment to the speedy return man Cameron Saddler - who will likely takeover the "Z receiver" position in the spread.

Ray Graham returns after a breakout 2010 that earned him 3rd Team All-Big East honors while sharing the load with Dion Lewis. The high play count will mean that some of the other running backs will need to step up, but there is no doubting Graham's playmaking ability on the field.

The Big East is filled with multiple looks on offense and defense, with no clear cut trend across the league. Seeing how the Panthers "high-octane" system matches up against different defenses will be just one of the story lines to keep an eye on in the upcoming Big East season.
Posted on: January 6, 2011 1:37 pm
 

Report: Pitt interviewing Tulsa's Graham

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Wednesday brought quite a flurry of rumors about Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley and the head coaching job at Pitt.  First he was the new head coach, then he wasn't.  Then he was texting his former players to let him know he was taking the job, and then he wasn't sending his players anything.  Here we are a day later, and Pitt still doesn't have a new head coach.

Will it end up being Bradley, we don't know.  What we do know, however, is that according to a report on Pantherlair.com, Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson wasn't even in Pittsburgh to be interviewing Bradley.  No, apparently he's in Atlanta to talk to Tulsa head coach Todd Graham.
According to sources, Pederson was in Atlanta meeting with Tulsa head coach Todd Graham.
Graham, 46, was interviewed in Pitt's first coaching search of the 2010-11 offseason, but multiple sources have confirmed that financial issues prevented him from moving further in the process. He is currently believed to be making more than $1 million annually at Tulsa. 
The report also says that Alabama assistant head coach Sal Sunseri has interviewed with Pitt as well this week.

Graham has been at Tulsa since 2007, and has gone 36-17 in those four seasons, and has had three seasons with at least 10 wins.  He has no experience coaching at Pitt, but he did spend a few years as an assistant at West Virginia.
Posted on: January 5, 2011 9:32 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2011 10:17 pm
 

Pitt denies reports of hiring PSU DC Tom Bradley

Posted by Chip Patterson and Adam Jacobi

With Pittsburgh furiously on the hunt to replace dismissed head coach Mike Haywood , one of the popular candidates has been Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. Rumors began swirling on Wednesday night that Bradley was going to accept the open position, and a report from PennLive.com is claiming that the assistant coach had sent text messages to at least two players informing them of his plans to become the new Panthers head coach "once details are worked out. "

According to the report,
Bradley texted to one player: "Love you kids. Going to miss you. Wish I could take you with me. Anything I can do for you, let me know."

UPDATE, 10:15 p.m.: PennLive.com reporter David Jones has retracted the report about Bradley sending text messages and taken responsibility for the error.

Pitt, for what it's worth, has denied that Bradley or anybody else has been offered the job, but even the denial is tepid at best; the spokesman admitted "mutual admiration" between Bradley and the school.

Bradley interviewed for the job on Tuesday , and has been unable to be reached by phone or email since then.  He was considered one of the frontrunners for the job along with Alabama assistant Sal Sunseri , and to a lesser extent Tulsa head coach Todd Graham , Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst , and former Florida defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.

After finishing his career playing at Penn State, Bradley, a lifelong Pennsylvania native, moved immediately to the Nittany Lions sidelines.  He has been an assistant coach under Joe Paterno since 1980, and even had stints of head coaching duties when Paterno was suffering health issues.  

For Pittsburgh, the hire is about as classy as they come.  Bradley will be able to quickly change the tone of a program that currently appears to be lost and looking for direction.  He has been recruiting the area his entire career and his roots in the college game run deep.  After Dave Wannstedt , that will be a welcome asset for Panther fans.

 
 
 
 
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