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August 11, 2012

Sunseri eyes bigger role as a sophomore

TUSCALOOA | Vinnie Sunseri earned a reputation in 2011 as a special teams headhunter. But as the season wore on, he became more than just a special teamer. Playing in all 13 games, the former Northridge High School standout tallied 31 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

With the departure of Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, DeQuan Menzie and Phelon Jones from the Crimson Tide secondary, Sunseri is expected to see increased playing time in 2012. The Tuscaloosa News spoke with Sunseri to ask about winning a national title as a freshman and how good Alabama's defense can be in his sophomore season.

Q: What are your thoughts and emotions about getting another season started?

A: Just really excited for all the opportunities we've got coming up. We're working hard and just excited for everything.

Q: Coming out of Northridge did you ever dream of doing what you did as a freshman last year?

A: There was a lot of hopes and wishing I could be a part of it last year. Being able to contribute to it like I did was just something really special. I'll never forget it, but that was last year's season and now we're focused on this year.

Q: What are your goals for this season?

A: To contribute to the team as well as I can. Do whatever Coach (Nick) Saban and Coach (Kirby) ask me to do. My goal is to play hard every single day.

Q: Do you feel like you've gotten better since last year?

A: I feel like I'm more comfortable at the positions they're asking me to play. It's definitely becoming a little bit more easier every single time we go through it.

Q: It's well known how complex the defense is. How long did it take you to pick it up?

A: It can be a complex defense if you don't go into with the right mindset every single day. Every single day I kind of took the playbook home, studied it about three or four hours. Called my dad and asked him what he thought about it, while he was here. We would always meet and watch film together and it just started clicking a little bit more and a little bit more every day.

Q: Do you feel that at some point you'll be the guy to make checks and get the defense lined up correctly?

A: Hopefully. That's the goal. I mean, you want Coach Saban to be able to look at you and say, 'I want you to be able to go out there and make all the checks I want you to make.' I know I'm not there yet. I've got a lot more learning to do. But I have Nico Johnson, Robert Lester, Dee Milliner and all those guys with me makes it so much easier.

Q: With what you lost on defense, how good can this year's defense be?

A: I mean last year's secondary was unbelievable with Mark (Barron), Dre (Kirkpatrick) and everybody back there. We're just really looking forward to the opportunities that we have. We don't know how good we can be, but we're definitely going to work hard every day.

Q: Was it kind of surreal doing what you did last year and having your dad be a part of it?

A: It was so surreal. It was something that I couldn't even dream about doing. I mean, losing to LSU the first time and thinking that the BCS hopes were done and Oklahoma State losing, we were in the hotel jumping around. We knew it came true. Finally once we won and going to my dad after the game was just unbelievable.

Q: Was that your favorite moment of last year?

A: Yeah, definitely my favorite moment. I had my whole family on the field and it was so surreal. All the guys were looking into the crowd and I was thinking to myself, 'I've got to find my family.' It is something that I'll be able to cherish for the rest of my life.

Q: What was it like for you when your dad decided to go to Tennessee?

A: It was definitely tough. It was a tough moment. But it was the best thing for him to do for his goals and his aspirations and exactly like what I have to do for mine.

Q: Any friendly trash talk between you two?

A: No, not at all. We talk about how each other is doing and stuff like that. That's about it. We try to keep football out of it.

Q: You think you'll talk to him the week of Alabama-Tennessee?

A: Definitely. I'll go give him a hug and tell him I love him. We'll talk before the game, but nothing too in-depth. I can't give away any of game plan or secrets.

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron.suttles@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0229.

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