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March 27, 2012

Sunseri moving up

TUSCALOOSA | Less than two years after playing linebacker at Northridge High, Vinnie Sunseri is playing safety on Stadium Drive.

The big stadium, that is.

It's been an eventful journey for the University of Alabama sophomore-to-be over the last 18 months. He's changed positions and flourished as a defensive back. He's become a fan favorite on special teams for his aggressive style. He's played for his father, Sal, who was a UA assistant coach last year, and wished him well in his departure to rival Tennessee as defensive coordinator.

This spring, Sunseri is experiencing something new once again -- he is a prime candidate to replace Mark Barron at safety for the Crimson TIde.

"He's a very bright guy and has a great attitude. He works hard every day of practice. It's very important to him," said UA coach Nick Saban. "I think coverage is what you always work to improve on for a guy that doesn't have a lot of experience playing on the back end and that's what we'll work on with him."

Sunseri made 31 tackles for UA last year, and the increased playing time he received at the end of the season can only help his progress in practice this spring.

"I'll have to compete in the spring like anyone else," Sunseri said after the BCS title win over LSU in January. "But I definitely have more of a comfort level now from having played some. I've had some great players around me that helped me all year."

UA wide receiver Kenny Bell said Sunseri's aggressive defensive play reminds him of former UA cornerback Javier Arenas.

"He's a tough player. He's got the ability to come down and hit you, and he makes you better every day," Bell said. "He's going to be a really good player for us on defense."

Saban was duly impressed with the way Sunseri handled his playing time last year, particularly late in the season when he was called on to replace Barron for injury reasons.

"Vinnie wore lots of hats last year. He lined up and played special teams. He was an all-type role in the secondary," Saban said. "For a guy who hadn't been a defensive back, he did a marvelous job to be able to evolve and do those things."

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.


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