published Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Sal Sunseri looks to get the Vols back on track as Missouri prepares to visit

Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri
Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE — The frustration was evident in Sal Sunseri's voice.

His Tennessee defense is having a rough season, and the Volunteers' first-year coordinator steered the spotlight and blame away from his players after Wednesday morning's practice.

"I am not disappointed in the kids," Sunseri said. "I'm disappointed in myself. I've just got to keep pushing them and keep on finding out what's going to trigger them to make them better.

"I'm disappointed in myself because I know what's going to work, I know what they have the capabilities of doing and I've just got to get it out of them."

After surrendering a program record 721 yards to Troy, Tennessee is 112th nationally and last in the Southeastern Conference in total defense in Sunseri's first season in Knoxville. The former NFL and Alabama assistant has come under fire for the defensive woes, which have undermined the production of a talented offense. There's been busts and missed tackles, poor schemes and players struggling to make plays.

Nothing has worked, but Sunseri and his players are continuing to search for ways to fix it.

"People told me that I was too small to play, I was too this and all that and I worked through it and got it done," Sunseri said of the early days his All-American college playing career at Pittsburgh. "Right now we've just got to play better defense, and that's the attitude I want to take to the kids. We're going to work through it so we understand it and we do what we need to do to get better.

"Hey, it's been a learning process on both sides. The kids, my hats are off to them because they came out here today and they gave everything they could. They're trying; they play hard in the game, and we've just got to quit making mental mistakes."

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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