For Derek Dooley, hiring Sal Sunseri to replace Justin Wilcox as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator was “pretty simple.”

Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon left for the University of Washington Jan. 2.

Sunseri was hired Jan. 13, four days after winning a national championship with Alabama, where he served as the assistant head coach and outside linebackers coach for the past three seasons.

“The chance to work with Derek Dooley, who has been around championships and knows what it takes to build an elite program, combined with the rich tradition of the University of Tennessee, makes this opportunity so exciting to me,” Sunseri said in a press release. “I am fired up to work with all of the young talent on the defensive side of the ball, and I can’t wait to get up to Knoxville and coach them.”

Prior to being at Alabama, Sunseri spent seven seasons coaching the defensive line of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, and had stops at Michigan State, LSU, Louisville and his alma mater, Pittsburgh, where he was an All-American linebacker in 1981.

“I worked with Sal in 2000 at LSU and developed a relationship with him and just watched his body of work over the last 10 years,” Dooley said. “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.”

Under Sunseri, the Vols’ defense will be more multiple, Dooley said.

“We’re not going to be a 4-3 team,” Dooley said. “We’re going to be a multiple team, which means there will be 3-4 principles. There will be 40 principles. There will be some odd looks, third down, everything. It’s everything. What we’re going to look like next fall is going to be predicated on, as we put stuff in during the spring and in training camp, what can we do well given our personnel?”

Players leaving

Six players from last year’s team won’t be returning next season: wide receivers DeAnthony Arnett and Matt Milton, quarterback Nash Nance, defensive linemen Martaze Jackson and Arthur Jeffery and linebacker Robert Nelson. Offensive lineman JerQuari Schofield is not currently on the team because he is focusing on academics.

Roster additions

Seven mid-year signees joined the football team after enrolling in school for the Spring Semester: JUCO defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore, athlete Cody Blanc, running back Alden Hill, tight end Justin Meredith, quarterback Nathan Peterman, defensive lineman Trent Taylor and defensive back Tino Thomas, who redshirted last year after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery.

“They are ready to go,” Dooley said. “They are in school and good.”

The benefits of enrolling early are being able to participate in spring practice and going through an entire off-season strength and conditioning program.

Injuries updates

Wide receiver Justin Hunter “is right on track and doing great” in his rehab after tearing an ACL, Dooley said. Monday, UT quarterback Tyler Bray tweeted, “Just got done throwing to J. Hunt. Still looks like he did before Florida. #swag.”

Safety Brent Brewer will miss spring practice due to his torn ACL.

Defensive tackle Daniel Hood, linebacker Curt Maggitt and defensive back Prentiss Waggner all had off-season shoulder surgeries and will be no-contact for the spring.

Center Alex Bullard, running back Marlin Lane, linebackers Greg King and Herman Lathers, defensive lineman Marlon Walls and wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers are rehabbing various injures but are all “full-go” for spring practice.

Graphic box:
Sunseri coaching career
2009-11: Alabama - Assistant head coach/Linebackers
2002-08: Carolina Panthers - Defensive line
2001: Michigan State - Linebackers/Special teams
2000: LSU - Linebackers/Special teams
1998-99: Alabama A&M - Defensive coordinator/Linebackers
1995-97: Louisville - Linebackers
1994: Illinois State - Defensive coordinator
1993: Iowa Wesleyan - Assistant head coach/Defensive coordinator/Special teams
1985-92: Pittsburgh - Defensive Line/Linebackers/Assistant head coach (1992)