By: Darrell Winstead
The All Vol Call in Show
Just as any new head coach wants “his” players, he also wants “his” coaches. They want coaches they can be confident in and lean on heavily when needed. Familiarity and production are of the utmost importance and that’s exactly what coach Pruitt had in mind when he hired Derrick Ansley, to lead his defense.
After a less than stellar 5-7 season a year ago, Pruitt along with Phillip Fulmer decided they needed to add better quality coaches, when a few from last year left the team. Ansley was one of the guys they wanted and they signed him to a 3 year deal worth $1 million annually.
Ansley has fourteen years of coaching experience and is no stranger to good ol’ Rocky Top. His career began at Troy University, where he was a star defensive back for the Trojans. He finished his career as the 2nd leading interceptor(19), in school history. This included a spectacular junior season (2003) in which he finished third in the nation, with nine interceptions. With his college playing days now done, he’d jump straight into coaching. With the same enthusiasm and energy, that made him a great defensive back, he would use to become one of the top coaches.
2005-2009 His first stop was at Huntingdon College, in Kentucky, While a member of the coaching staff, he would help lead them to their first winning season and playoff appearance. During his five seasons there, the Hawks would have four winning seasons and reach a high of eight wins twice.
2010-2011 With some experience under his belt, he made the jump to coach with big dogs. He would be a graduate assistant for two seasons, at Alabama, under head coach Nick Saban. This would also make his first time getting to work alongside Pruitt. They would help lead Bama to the National Championship in 2011.
2012 In 2012 he joined the Tennessee staff for one season, as the defensive backs coach. This may have only been a cup of coffee with Vols, but he would get to coach cornerback Justin Coleman who currently plays in the NFL and safety David Moore, who would lead the SEC with five interceptions that year. It’s clear early on,he can teach and lead a group to high production.
2013-2015 For the first years he would be the Kentucky Wildcats defensive backs coach,but in his third year with the team, he would be the co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach. That year, he helped the Wildcats record 23 turnovers, which was 2nd in the SEC and a school record six defensive touchdowns. Once again, a team he was helping coach, showed great improvements defensively.
2016-2017 This would be his second time working with Pruitt. During these two years he would return to Alabama,as their defensive backs coach, where he would work under Pruitt who was the defensive coordinator under Saban. In these two seasons the Crimson Tide would have both the nations #1 total defense and #1 scoring defense. It doesn’t get much better than that. Oh they won the National Championship in 2016.
2018 Having accomplished so much and winning National Championships, he decided to try his hand at the NFL. He would join John Gruden, who was a grad assistant for Vols in 86’-87’, as the defensive backs coach for the Oakland Raiders. Just during his one season there, he helped them improve a defense that was horrible, to say the least. Having this experience at the highest level will be very valuable for the rest of his career.
2019 Ansley is back, for his second opportunity with the Vols and his third run with Pruitt. After joining team Pruitt did some coach shuffling, which landed Ansley as the defensive coordinator. He’ll be in charge of the defense and make all the calls. His past success at every stop suggests that Tennessee’s defense is in good hands and will be on their way back to being one of the nations best. He has a good young group to work with and is adding better talent at every turn. Like Pruitt, Ansley is a defensive backs’ guru and secondary is one of the Vols best units.
In summary what does this all mean for Tennessee this upcoming season and beyond? With all of Ansley’s experience and success at multiple levels, he will be a vital piece on this coaching staff and for this team. He can draw from his NFL experiences and instruct players on what it takes to get to the NFL and what NFL coaches look for in prospects.