TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- With starting safety Vinnie Sunseri done for the season because of a knee injury, Alabama coach Nick Saban said the team will miss more than a solid playmaker on defense.
As a veteran, Sunseri was one of the leaders of the team. Also, on defense, he helped make the secondary calls, and his loss leaves a void there as well.
"Vinnie has done a great job for us. He's an outstanding player and really good person, good leader," Saban said during his Monday news conference. "Can't say enough about the job he's done throughout this year and his career. Always hate it when guys get injuries. It's a tough part of the game."
Through seven games, Sunseri is seventh on the team with 20 total tackles including a tackle for loss. He had two interceptions, both of which he returned for touchdowns.With Sunseri out, the Tide is left shuffling at multiple positions. Sophomore Landon Collins is likely to start at strong safety in place of Sunseri with Jarrick Williams and Geno Smith expected to see time as well.
"We have to step it up," Collins said. "He was a big loss for our defense now and the ... leadership needs to step up and the players need to step up that are taking his place."
Saban said Sunseri will undergo surgery Tuesday to repair a torn knee ligament. An MRI on Sunday revealed the extent of the damage to Sunseri's left knee.
Saban declined to discuss the details of Sunseri's injury.
"He needs surgery. He has ligament damage," Saban said. "We usually don't give a medical report. He needs surgery and he's out for the year. Call Doc."
Sunseri went down with the injury on kickoff coverage in the first quarter of the Tide's 52-0 victory over Arkansas on Saturday. He walked off the field with little assistance and laid briefly on the training table before heading to the locker room.
He did not return to the game, but returned to the sideline in street clothes without crutches and received hugs from his teammates. Following the game, Saban said that "it could be serious" when discussing Sunseri's injury.
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron said even though Sunseri can't play the rest of the season, the team still needs his leadership.
"He's got to be the same guy. He's got to be a leader for us," McCarron said. "If he starts to fall off, the other leaders will tell him. He's got to be there for us mentally and to teach these young guys how to do the right thing, what to do at all times (so that) it puts us in a good situation at the end of the day to win a ballgame still. He's definitely going to have to be there for us and these younger guys as we go throughout the season."