Alabama preps for Tennessee; Sunseri out for season

Alabama Football Update: Sunseri out for season as Tide gets ready for Tennessee

Alabama Coach Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide face Tennessee Saturday.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide face Tennessee Saturday.

Vinnie Sunseri, an improtant leader in the Alabama defensive backfield, will be out for the season as the Tide gets ready for its annual showdown with Tennessee.

Sunseri injured his knee on a kick return play in the first quarter of the Arkansas game. At his Monday press conference, Alabama coach Nick Saban said the injury will require surgery, but did not elaborate further.

“Vinnie’s done a great job for us. He’s an outstanding player, a really good person and leader,” Saban said. “When guys get hurt it’s a tough part of the game, but it will provide some other guys the opportunity to step up and play well.”

Saban said Landon Collins will replace Sunseri and Jarrick Williams will back up Collins. The move will cause some different personnel sets for Alabama’s defense, depending on whether the Tide is in a nickel or dime package. Saban said, “You lose continuity in nickel and dime when players move around,” but he said Alabama dealt with the change effectively in the Arkansas game.

Defensive back Bradley Sylve and running back Altee Tenpenney were also injured in the Arkansas game. Saban said those players are being evaluated “day to day.”

The past weekend saw several upsets around the nation. The SEC had several of those, including a last- second win by Tennessee over South Carolina. Alabama was not one of those upset victims. The Tide dismantled Arkansas 52-0. Saban praised the Tide’s effort against the Razorbacks, but cautioned against complacency in the face of a surging Tennessee squad.

“This is not the time to be satisfied with yourself in any shape or form,” he said. “If you’re focusing on what you can do to be the best player you can be, or to be the best team we can be, our focus is going to be on what we need to do to improve and get better for the challenges ahead…and every challenge is a bigger challenge.”

“This game with Tennessee is a very special rivalry,” Saban said. “Right now Tennessee is emerging as a very good football team the past few weeks.”

Saban said Tennessee has a veteran offensive line that has led the way for 200-yards per game rushing while giving up very few sacks. The Volunteers also lead the SEC in fewest penalty yards. Saban said the lack of penalties proves that the Vols are getting excellent coaching and are focusing on “intangibles.”

Saban said the Vols dramatic win over a quality South Carolina team would likely have Tennessee playing with increased swagger this weekend.

“It does a tremendous amount for everyone’s confidence,” Saban said. “You start to believe that if you do the little things the right way, the better opportunity you have to have success. It means a huge amount to any team.”

Saban was asked about a proposed nine-game SEC schedule. He said he would like to see every player in the SEC have the chance to play against every other school during their careers, while providing compelling match-ups for the fans, and protecting longstanding rivalry games like Alabama-Tennessee.

“We’ve got to think of the fans first,” he said. “There’s always a lot of interest when we play SEC games.”

Saban passed on his condolences to the family of coaching legend Don James who died recently, at age 80, after a battle with cancer.

James was Saban’s college coach at Kent State in the mid 1970s. James left Kent State for The University of Washington in 1979 and led the Huskies to six Rose Bowls and a share of the 1991 national championship.

Saban said James was one of a handful of people who have had a profound impact on the way he “lives life.” Saban said he always hated the windsprint drills James made his players run in practice. Saban said he was able to talk to his former coach before his passing. Saban told James that he subjects his Tide players to those very same sprint drills.