…away from Auburn. On Wednesday, head coach Nick Saban announced James Willis as the newest defensive assistant on the Crimson Tide staff. Saban also formally announced Sal Sunseri as the man to take over the other vacant coaching spot.
The news that is sure to rattle rivalry hatred throughout the Heart of Dixie comes almost exactly one week after former Tide assistant Lance Thompson packed his bags for Rocky Top and twelve days after assistant Kevin Steele officially took over as defensive coordinator at Clemson.
Both Thompson and Steele coached linebackers, and that is the area of the defense Willis and Sunseri will coach.
Willis heads to Tuscaloosa shortly after being hired by new Auburn head coach Gene Chizik. The former All-SEC and NFL linebacker was on former AU head coach Tommy Tuberville‘s staff on the Plains and was initially released by the Chizik regime before being asked back. After Tuberville left, and before Chizik was hired, Willis was reportedly the only assistant who kept contact with AU recruits during that period. He has strong recruiting ties to talent hotbed Mobile, Ala.
Sunseri was an All-American linebacker at Pitt and played in the NFL before an injury ended his playing career. He served as Pitt’s interim head coach at the end of the 1992 season and most recently coached defensive line for the Carolina Panthers.
In addition to coaching linebackers, Willis will also carry the tag, “Associate Head Coach,” and Sunseri will be “Assistant Head Coach.”