published Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Palermo hired for Vols' defensive line

KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley didn't have to look far to find his new defensive line coach.

The longest part of the process of hiring John Palermo might have been looking at the 59-year-old's lengthy resume.

Dooley tabbed Palermo on Friday to replace Lance Thompson, who became the sixth assistant to leave since the end of UT's 5-7 season when he took the job as Alabama's linebackers coach earlier this week.

Palermo has made numerous stops during his 37-year coaching career, most recently for two years at Middle Tennessee State, where he resigned last month.

"John is one of the most respected defensive line coaches in the nation," Dooley said in a UT release. "He has a history of coaching and developing multiple All-Americans, all-conference players, first-round draft picks and Pro Bowl players. Adding a coach with John's abilities and successful track record will have a positive impact on our defensive line and our program."

Palermo joined MTSU's staff following two seasons with the Washington Redskins, his lone NFL coaching job. He was the assistant head coach for 15 seasons at Wisconsin, where he coached the Badgers' outside linebackers (1991-95) and defensive line (1996-2005). In addition to a year at Miami (2006), Palermo was on Lou Holtz's staff at Notre Dame for two seasons (1988-89).

UT will be Palermo's fifth in-state school. In addition to MTSU, he coached defensive line at Tennessee Tech (2007) and Memphis State (1980-82) along with two stints at Austin Peay, including the 1990 season as the Govs' head coach.

His collegiate coaching career began at North Carolina State in 1977, three years after he finished his playing career at Florida State.

"I am very grateful an appreciative of John and what he has done for the program the last two years," MTSU coach Rick Stockstill said in the Murfreesboro school's release announcing Palermo's resignation "to pursue some other opportunities" on Dec. 19.

"He definitely made an impact in our program and did a nice job of developing our young defensive linemen. I think highly of him and wish him the very best."

Palermo is Dooley's fourth offseason hire, joining defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, running backs coach Jay Graham and offensive line coach Sam Pittman. In addition to one defensive vacancy, UT still needs a special teams coordinator to replace Eric Russell, who left to become the assistant head coach and special teams coordinator at Washington State.

According to a source inside the UT program, Rich Bisaccia, the special teams coach for the San Diego Chargers, could not get out of his contract with the NFL team, preventing him from possibly accepting an offer to join the Vols' staff.

Given Sunseri's background as a linebackers coach, it's likely Dooley will pursue another coach in the secondary to help Terry Joseph, who handled defensive backs last season in addition to his duties as recruiting coordinator.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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