Tomahawk Nation and 247sports.com have reported the hire of Pruitt, although Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher hasn’t made an official announcement. FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops has left the Seminoles to take the Kentucky head coaching job.
Florida State defensive back commitment Marquez White of Dothan posted on Twitter on Sunday, “Coach Pruitt to FSU ayyyyyyyy.”
Coachingsearch.com is reporting Alabama might target Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Charles Kelley as Pruitt’s possible replacement.
Pruitt, 37, joined Nick Saban‘s staff at Alabama in 2007 as director of player development. He began coaching defensive backs in 2010.
He was named National Recruiter of the Year last season by 247sports.com.
Like Pruitt, Fisher has coached under Saban, serving as his offensive coordinator at LSU during 2000-04.
Sunseri, 53, coached linebackers at Alabama during 2009-11 before joining Derek Dooley‘s staff as defensive coordinator. Sunseri was fired at the end of the Vols’ 2012 season when Dooley and his staff were dismissed.
Anybody want Vinnie Sunseri? He joked Monday he is free to a good home.
Although he said the Sunseri Bowl was hard on him and his family, he had a little fun discussing the fallout from his Crimson Tide winning 44-13 over Tennessee, where his dad, Sal Sunseri, is defensive coordinator.
When a reporter jokingly asked if he was out of the family will, Vinnie smiled and said, “Yeah, I’m up for adoption, so if anybody wants me …”
Reporters caught up with Sal Sunseri after the game, as he headed toward the Alabama locker room to see his son.
“It was hard,” he said. “It was difficult. Vinnie acted like a pro, and I acted like a pro. They’ve got a great football team at Alabama. I’m just happy that my son’s part of it.”
Saturday won’t be easy for Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.
The Crimson Tide is facing Tennessee, and the Vols’ defensive coordinator, Sal Sunseri, not only is a former Bama assistant coach but is the father of Kouandjio’s roommate, Vinnie Sunseri. In addition, Sal Sunseri recruited Kouandjio to Tuscaloosa out of Hyattsville, Md.
“I love Coach Sal,” Kouandjio said. “After the game, we’re going to hug. We’re going to shake hands. But during the game, it’s ‘I don’t love Coach Sal.’ My roommate, Vinnie Sunseri — it’s his father. I love the guy to death, actually. I can’t wait to see him again. I’ll hold that off until after the game.”
This also is a meaningful game because Kouandjio got hurt last year against Tennessee. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, which required reconstructive surgery.
“To rehab every day — I didn’t know it was going to be as hard, actually,” he said. “When you get hurt, it’s not a joke, because it’s tough to get back. I’m still kind of hurting a little bit. But I’m just ready to go out there and play, you know?
“I’m actually pretty excited. It’s been a year, and this is the same team that I tore my ACL against. I’m ready to go out there and have fun.”
Just a couple of years ago, the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry meant nothing special to Kouandjio. He didn’t learn about it until after he arrived on campus.
“I noticed a change in tempo and a change in everybody’s mindset,” he said. “Everybody’s more into it, you know? Everybody’s more focused. This is a big game, especially Coach (Nick) Saban. He feels this is a huge game because we have a rivalry against Tennessee, and it’s an important game to do our best and execute.”
Alabama defensive back Vinnie Sunseri intercepts a pass against Missouri. (AP photo by Jeff Roberson)
This is my story for today’s print editions:
TUSCALOOSA — For Vinnie Sunseri, it happened in the locker room at Missouri’s Memorial Stadium. That’s when it hit him full-on.
After a 42-10 beating of Missouri on Saturday, Alabama coach Nick Saban began talking about the next game, and that’s when Sunseri realized the time had come to face his dad’s team. Alabama will visit Tennessee this week, and former Tide assistant coach Sal Sunseri is the Vols’ rookie defensive coordinator.
“Coach Saban brought us in and said, ‘This is Tennessee week. This is a rivalry that’s gone back before I was even born probably,’ ” said Vinnie Sunseri, a sophomore defensive back with the Crimson Tide. “I was sitting there and I was like, ‘Wow. I’ve got to play against my dad this week. This is tough.’ ”
The way Vinnie describes it, the Sunseri family is especially close. He said the biggest reason he came to Alabama in the first place was that his dad was an assistant coach on Saban’s staff.
The family is so close that when Sal took the Vols’ defensive coordinator job in January, Vinnie had a few anxious moments as he considered whether he wanted to stay in Tuscaloosa. Not only was his dad leaving town, but so where his mother, Roxann Sunseri, and his sister, Ashlyn Sunseri, who was a high school senior and was signing to play volleyball for the Vols.
That left Vinnie in town by himself — although in the end, he figured he had too many reasons to stay. Still, he thought that when Tennessee week came, it wouldn’t be easy for anybody.
“Very, very tough,” he said. “A lot of mixed emotions. Hard, hard, hard, hard. I’m getting a lot of calls from the family saying good luck to me, but I know they’re just giving the same exact advice to my dad. It’s tough. It’s really tough. But I’m excited to see my dad.”
One of Vinnie’s best friends on the team, fellow safety Robert Lester, said Vinnie usually talks about his father often. But something has changed since the Missouri game, which showed Lester how important this game is to his teammate.
“He hasn’t said anything about his dad at all,” Lester said.
Vinnie’s mother won’t attend Saturday’s game, instead choosing to stay in their Knoxville apartment.
“I just got off the phone with her,” Vinnie said. “I said, ‘How are you doing?’ She said, ‘Oh, you know, I’m all right.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I know exactly how you feel.’ ”
Vinnie said he didn’t realize how hard this must be on his mother until he went home for Alabama’s open date about a week and a half ago. Vinnie’s older brother, Tino Sunseri, plays quarterback for Pittsburgh, and the family watched the Panthers’ game against Syracuse on TV. Tino threw for 319 yards but was sacked five times in a 14-13 loss.
“I had never witnessed it before, but she becomes a wreck,” Vinnie said. “She’s emotional. Oh, my gosh, she just wishes the best for us at all times. She’s so passionate and loves us all so much. Especially when one of us gets hurt, it just kills her inside. She is a fan favorite of all of us and is, honestly, our biggest fan.”
Vinnie said his sister is planning to attend, along with aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends.
“(Ashlyn) says it’s going to be a defensive game in her mind,” Vinnie said.
Vinnie still talks to his dad, even this week. They spoke Sunday night. And Vinnie said whoever wins won’t claim bragging rights.
“No, no, this is just a football game,” Vinnie said. “This isn’t anything I would want to put into his face, or if they are able to do something against us, it’s something that he wouldn’t want to rub in our face. It’s competition, but at the end of the day, we’re family. That’s the strongest thing.”
Note: The Knoxville News-Sentinel asked Sal Sunseri about family ties in April, and the response applies awfully well this week:
Defensive back Vinnie Sunseri, with the ball, says he has no plans to leave Alabama, even after his family moved from Tuscaloosa to Knoxville.
Vinnie Sunseri loves his family, and they love him. Because he loves his family so much, he considered for one small, tiny fraction of a moment leaving Alabama after last season to be with them.
His father, Sal Sunseri, left Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide coaching staff in January after three seasons, taking the defensive coordinator’s job at Tennessee. Vinnie’s mom, Roxann Sunseri, was leaving Tuscaloosa for Knoxville. His sister, Ashlyn Sunseri, was going as well, signing with the Lady Vols’ volleyball program. Older brother, Tino Sunseri, plays quarterback at Pittsburgh.
That left Vinnie alone in Tuscaloosa.
“The reason why I did come here was because my family was here,” Sunseri said. “I was never able to be with my dad because he was always out recruiting and coaching other players. That’s one of the reasons I came here. Once he left, it wasn’t too, too rough of a decision. It was something I definitely had to sleep on for a night. Alabama was the place for me.”
Sunseri said Alabama head coach Nick Saban played a large role in wanting to stay.
“He is someone I really ended up looking up to the whole time I’ve been here, especially with my dad leaving. Once he left, I was trying to figure out why I wanted to be here, why I’d stay here since my family was all leaving,” Sunseri said. “Coach Saban is the reason I stayed here. He’s one of the best DB coaches out there, and I just wanted to learn from the best.”
Sunseri did get to see family this past weekend. With Alabama off, he traveled to Knoxville. The Vols were off, too, allowing Sunseri to spend time with his dad.
“He tried to get me fat,” Vinnie said. “Gained about eight pounds up there. It was a good time. It was good seeing the family.”
They’ll visit before Alabama’s game at Tennessee later this month.
“I told him I was going to come out early so we could see each other before the game,” Sunseri said.
However, Sunseri wanted to be clear — he isn’t leaving Alabama.
“I’m not going anywhere else,” he said, before smiling wide and joking, “Or am I?”
Alabama’s emotional linebackers coach is headed to one of its top rivals, the school confirmed Friday morning.
Sal Sunseri, father of freshman safety Vinnie Sunseri, will become the new defensive coordinator at Tennessee, GoVols247.com first reported Friday morning.
The elder Sunseri is the second coach to depart Alabama after winning its second national title in three seasons. Offensive coordinator Jim McElwain took over the Colorado State head job immediately following the 21-0 beating of LSU in Monday’s BCS title game.
Sunseri came to Alabama before the 2009 national title season from the Carolina Panthers. He coached the outside linebackers in his time in Tuscaloosa including potential first-round draft pick Courtney Upshaw.
At Tennessee, Sunseri will reunite with former Alabama reserve Darrington Sentimore. The defensive lineman signed with the Vols in December after leaving Alabama for a junior college over the summer.
Take a look at Sunseri’s style in practice with this video I put together after last season.
Stay tuned for any further details on this story as it develops.