Alabama defensive back Vinnie Sunseri (3) tries to get the crowd to cheer louder during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo)
Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri’s decision to declare himself eligible for the NFL draft became official Sunday.
Sunseri has gone back and fourth about his decision in recent weeks about not coming back for his senior season.
He made the Wednesday deadline to declare his intentions but had until Saturday to change his mind. His name was on the NFL list of 98 players, released Sunday, who left college early.
Sunseri is one of five Alabama players who left early, including offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, linebacker Adrian Hubbard and defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan.
His decision is a curiosity since he’s coming off knee surgery from a midseason injury and could have used next season to prove he’s healthy and can perform at a high level again.
Del Rio lands
Former Alabama walk-on quarterback Luke Del Rio landed at Oregon State with a scholarship, the Beavers announced over the weekend.
Del Rio, a freshman who redshirted this past season, had an offer from Oregon State before he decided to walk on with the Crimson Tide.
Alabama defensive back Vinnie Sunseri (3) tries to get the crowd to cheer louder during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo)
Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri is making himself eligible for the NFL draft and not coming back for his senior season, according to an ESPN report.
This is a surprising move since he’s coming off midseason ACL surgery. He reported on Twitter that the rehab has been going better than hoped.
However, Sunseri has yet to test his knee in game situations or practice. He could use next season work out any rust. Sunseri would be a long shot to be drafted, but more likely a free agent when healthy.
Speculation for the reason of him leaving is because of the emergence of Landon Collins in his strong safety position. Sunseri wasn’t agile enough to be the free safety before the injury.
Sunseri had two interceptions returned for touchdowns and 20 tackles in seven games this past season. He was hurt on a kickoff play against Arkansas.
If Sunseri leaves, he’ll be the fifth Alabama player to leave the team early this season. The others are offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan and linebacker Adrian Hubbard.
Also floating around cyberspace is the rumor that Georgia is making a play for defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to be in the same position for the Bulldogs.
That’s going to be hard to pull off since Smart is paid so well. However, Georgia coach Mark Richt isn’t expected to coach his whole life there and will retire. Being the coach-in-waiting might be of interest for Smart.
Smart spent two years as an assistant at Georgia in 1999 and 2005. Sunday night on Twitter he talked about watching Sugar Bowl video and staying with the Tide.
So happy in Tuscaloosa, I have my great family, friends, and players here #RollTide
Alabama defensive back Vinnie Sunseri (3) holds his knee after being injured on a kickoff during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Starting strong safety Vinnie Sunseri suffered a season-ending knee injury in Saturday’s game, Alabama coach Nick Saban said Monday.
Sunseri has ligament damage and will have surgery Tuesday. He’ll be out for the rest of the year. Landon Collins is the new strong safety with Jarrick Williams as the backup.
“Vinnie, from a character standpoint, he’s one of the best players I’ve had the opportunity coach,” Saban said. “He’s a great person. He tried to do everything right. He’s a hard work. He sets a great example. He has really good leadership skills. He affects people in a positive way. The guys is just a great competitor.”
Running back Altee Tenpenny (toe) and cornerback Bradley Slyve (ankle) are day-to-day.
Check out Collins talk about being the new starter at free safety and other topics below.
Ten players were named players of the week by the coaching staff after the Arkansas game. Running back Kenyan Drake, quarterback AJ McCarron and offensive lineman Austin Shepherd were the offensive players.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix,Collins, Williams and linebacker C.J. Mosley were the defensive players. Mosley has been named a defensive player of the week after every game.
Dee Hart, Eddie Jackson and DeAndrew White were the special teams players of the week.
Alabama opened up as a 28-point favorite against Tennessee on Saturday.
A fan cheers as the teams take the field to warm up before the first half of an NCAA college football game between Alabama and Arkansas on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Alabama defensive back Vinnie Sunseri (3) tries to get the crowd to cheer louder during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Alabama football coach Nick Saban praised safety Vinnie Sunseri for stepping up and being a leader in the secondary more than usual last weekend against Georgia State.
Sunseri will need to do that again with safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix still suspended while the investigation into him accepting impermissible benefits continues.
“Vinnie does a good job,” Saban said. “Vinnie’s a very smart guy. He’s been showing leadership in terms of making calls and trying to help the other guys in the secondary, which I think they appreciate. He all of a sudden is one of the most experienced guys back there right now.”
“It’s so important to communicate well when you play against the no-huddle teams,” Saban said. “I think (Sunseri) realizes that and is trying to get the other guys to do a good job of communicating. I think that’ll be a real challenge for us this week on the road against another no-huddle team, doing a good job of communicating with the players.”
Saban also depends on cornerbacks Deion Belue and Bradley Sylve, since they know the defense so well, to stabilize the secondary.
“I think that helps the safeties as well, because that’s where the communication breakdown comes, from the safety to the corner,” Saban said. “The more the corner knows about what’s going on, the better off you are.”
Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper catches a pass in the second spring scrimmage. (Photo courtesy of UA Athletics)
Here are the statistical leaders from the second spring scrimmage for the Alabama football team, the last one before the open A-Day scrimmage. You can click here to see video from the open warm-up period and here for a photo gallery from the event.
A.J. McCarron – 23 for 28, 319 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INT
Blake Sims – 10 for 15, 183 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Starting quarterback AJ McCarron in Wednesday’s practice. (Copyright photo by Brett Hudson)
With the ESPN College Gameday crew in Tuscaloosa for a leg of their spring practice tour, the Crimson Tide took to the practice field again, outside for the second practice in-a-row for what feels like the first time all spring. Here’s the news.
– As expected, Trey Depriest was out of practice on the exercise bike, wearing a protective boot over his right foot. Depriest, as reported by several outlets, had surgery on a stress fracture in his right foot and will miss the rest of spring practice.
– Vinnie Sunseri and HaSeaon “HaHa” Clinton-Dix look like the starting safeties in the defensive backfield, while Deion Belue and Geno Smith look to be the starting cornerbacks. Some key bodies in the reserves include Bradley Sylve and Jabriel Washington.
– Running back Dee Hart was a running back for the entirety of the open periods of practice today, not working with the defensive backs at all. Christion Jones was with the defensive backs for the entirety of the open period, as he has been all spring.
– Cornerback John Fulton (toe) continues to show great improvement, today running and cutting on his injured foot. The cuts he did were not at full speed, and some of them weren’t even at half-speed, but the foot is taking more weight now. Video of that can be seen below.
– Wide receivers were practicing receiving short back shoulder routes on jam man coverage. You can see video of the quarterbacks playing pitch-and-catch with the wideouts below.
Notre Dame’s Everett Golson (5) tries to get away from Alabama’s Vinnie Sunseri (3) during the BCS National Championship Game. (AP photo by David J. Phillip)
MIAMI GARDENS, Florida — Alabama defensive end Damion Square was not shy about taking over his defense as it was taking on Notre Dame and its highly touted running attack.
“They want to run the ball, but the only way they can win is if they throw the ball and I need you guys behind me,” Square said to the secondary. “We’ve got everything up front. I don’t need you looking in the backfield, I need you looking at your receivers.”
The secondary behind him did just that, locking down Notre Dame’s passing game for the 42-14 win.
“It was a game plan thing,” defensive back Vinnie Sunseri said. “Coach (Nick) Saban and Coach (Kirby) Smart put us in the right position to make plays.”
The leadership from Square and the other seniors on the defense is something Sunseri will miss.
“I’m going to miss these guys so much,” Sunseri said. “Words can’t describe how much I’m going to miss all of them. They’re like my brothers. I’ve been with them more than I’ve been with my family the last couple of years. I love them and I can’t explain how much I’m going to miss them.”
Square feels his left a sufficient legacy for the next group of seniors to continue building.
No doubt about it, no doubt about it,” Sqaure said when asked if he was part of a dynasty. “Because nobody’s done it before.”
Contributed by Brett Hudson
Video of Damion Square in the postgame interviews:
Video of Vinnie Sunseri in the postgame interviews:
Each day until the BCS National Championship Game, Daily Bama Blog contributor Brett Hudson will count down to kickoff, giving us bits and pieces of that day’s significance to Alabama and Notre Dame. Today is three days until the game, which means Brett is examining the number “three.”
–Alabama’s AJ McCarron has only thrown three interceptions this season, one of the lowest numbers in both the Southeastern Conference and the nation.
–Notre Dame is allowing 3.16 yards a rushing attempt: 351 carries for 1,109 yards. Alabama is allowing 2.46.
–Notre Dame is averaging 2.44 yards a punt return with 18 returns for 44 yards. That ranks the Irish 119th in the nation out of 124 FBS teams.
–The Irish have attempted five fourth-down conversions this season, converting on three.
–Alabama’s No. 3 is defensive back Vinnie Sunseri, son of former Alabama linebackers coach and current Florida State defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri. The sophomore, who graduated from Northridge High roughly 20 minutes from Bryant-Denny Stadium, is fourth on the team in tackles with 52. Sunseri has accumulated six tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
–Notre Dame’s lone No. 3 is reserve running back Amir Carlisle, who is in his first season with the Irish program after transferring to South Bend from USC. Carlisle has not carried the ball for the Irish despite playing in eight games
for the Trojans in 2011.
The Twitter post above went from Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron to Mississippi State linebacker Cameron Lawrence and cornerback Johnthan Banks after Saturday’s 38-7 win. It’s worth noting Lawrence is the last opposing player to intercept McCarron.
Here are some other posts by Alabama players on Twitter recently:
Louisiana native Kenny Bell (@TheKennyBell7) on returning to his home state with the Tide: “one of the fewest time I come home and is disliked lol roll tide.”
Eddie Lacy (@Lil_Eazy_Ana_42), another Louisiana native: “I think its kinda funny that fa the first time in my life when I touch down in my own state that i’m considered the enemy fa a few days lol”
Amari Cooper (@amari_coop2) on what you should do if you see him with his headphones on: “When I’m listening to music please don’t talk to me.”
Jesse Williams (@ThaMonstar) before boarding the plane to Baton Rouge: “Short Work trip, be Back Soon.”
D.J. Fluker (@DjFluker76): “I’m fortunate to be on a team with a great group of guys. They give everything they got for the man next to them. #idoitformydawgs”
Freshman quarterback Alec Morris (@alecmorris_2) on a problem all of us on Twitter have experienced: “I hate twitter so much. You can think of a brilliant tweet… The funniest thing ever… But when you type it all out its way too many char”
Carson Tinker (@carsontink) after arriving at the team hotel: “I feel like if a hotel room has a safe in it the hotel is pretty much telling you, “Don’t trust our staff” ”
We’ll close it out with someone who isn’t an Alabama player but is worth including: Callie Miller, a Hartselle native who is studying special education at Alabama. She’s a former basketball and volleyball star at Hartselle High and a volleyball standout at Wallace State-Hanceville. She crossed paths recently with Tide safety Vinnie Sunseri.
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 sophomore Vinnie Sunseri has won the family war for mom’s attention Saturday.
Sunseri’s Crimson Tide will be in Arlington, Texas, facing Michigan. His older brother, Pittsburgh quarterback Tino Sunseri, will be playing that day at home against Youngstown State. One of his sisters, Ashlyn Sunseri, plays volleyball at Tennessee, and the Lady Vols will be playing in a tournament in Wichita, Kansas. Their dad, Sal Sunseri, is defensive coordinator for Tennessee, which will face North Carolina State in Atlanta on Friday night.
So where should mom, Roxann Sunseri, go?
“Mom’s coming to my game,” Vinnie Sunseri said with a grin.
However, Sunseri gets high marks for being a good brother.
“I told her that every game after that, she needs to go watch Tino because he’s a senior.”