Alabama defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley didn’t need much time to get up to speed in Tuscaloosa.
Ansley was in Columbus Monday night along with former Alabama running back Bobby Humphrey and university president Dr. Stuart Bell as the featured guests at the annual Chattahoochee Valley Bama Club spring dinner.
Before speaking at the Green Island Country Club, Ansley spent time discussing his new yet familiar spot on Nick Saban’s coaching staff.
“It’s been an easy transition,” Ansley said. “When you work with people that you trust, you know and have a foundation with I think it makes the transition that much easier.”
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The former Troy standout spent the 2010 and 2011 season as an on-field defensive graduate assistant for Alabama. He helped coach former Carver standout DeQuan Menzie.
The Crimson Tide’s new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was on the staff at the time as the program’s secondary coach.
Ansley described the two-year stint as a special one that made his decision to leave his position as the secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator at Kentucky an easy one.
It also prepared Ansley for the high expectations Saban has for each member of his staff.
“He keeps everyone accountable himself included to the standard that he wants the program to go forward with,” Ansley said. “He sets the bar with his work ethic and each assistant coach has to challenge himself from within to match it. You can see it bleed on down through the program.”
Alabama wrapped up spring practice in April with the program’s annual spring exhibition game. The White squad beat the Crimson squad 7-3 with the offense managing less than 150 combined passing yards.
Ansley was reluctant to get into specifics about his position group coming out of spring camp, but was pleased with the general progress they made working to replace a pair of starters in defensive back Cyrus Jones and safety Geno Matias-Smith.
He was familiar with many of the names in Alabama’s secondary when he accepted the job having scouted some of them — Kentucky lost to Alabama 48-7 in 2013 — and recruited others.
“It’s a well-rounded group,” Ansley said. “We have a lot of guys coming back. We lost some seniors, but feel good about guys replacing them.”
Ansley’s fellow guest speaker Bobby Humphrey’s son Marlon is one of the players in the mix.
“He’s got a bunch of natural skills, he’s a very, very talented guy, but he just has to continue to grow at his position and become a technician so to speak,” Ansley said.
Position of strength
Ansley speaks confidently when discussing his coaching responsibilities. He looks at his lengthy coaching resume from his time as an assistant in Division III with Huntingdon to the last five years in the SEC as prepartion for his current role.
“Until you do it on your own you don’t feel like you’ve grown, I feel like I’ve grown,” Ansley said.
Ansley is hoping to establish that same kind of confidence on the recruiting trail, an area of the job he believes will be different at Alabama than it was at Kentucky.
“When you are at a school — one school is winning a lot and one school is not winning a lot — you got to approach a kid a different way, sell things a different way,” Ansley said. “There’s some trail and error to it.”
Ansley was responsible for the entire state of Alabama at Kentucky along with any recruits in the secondary. For the Crimson Tide, Ansley’s region includes the eastern part of Alabama and the bordering Georgia area including Columbus. He will also recruit the northern states — he visited Michigan and Ohio last week — and players in his position group from around the country.
On Monday, he sounded like he’s still fine-tuning his pitch for recruits in the southern region.
“When you are recruiting a part of the region that’s so football dominate where kids grow up liking a handful of schools, breaking that culture or talking them into seeing something else is the challenge you have,” Ansley said.