Vols Defensive Coordinator Derrick Ansley Glad to be Working With Mentor in Jeremy Pruitt
(utsports.com) KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – It was an easy decision for Derrick Ansley to return to Rocky Top after spending a season in the NFL as the Oakland Raiders’ defensive backs coach.
Ansley, who was hired as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator in February, said his relationship with head coach Jeremy Pruitt and the lure of Tennessee’s campus, resources and fanbase was strong enough to pull him back to the college game.
“Being from the South and coming back to the South was very appealing to me,” Ansley said. “Working with Coach Pruitt was probably the ace in the hole for me because he kind of gave me my start as a graduate assistant at Alabama in 2010 when he was the secondary coach. He and I have a very, very strong and unique bond. I consider him one of my biggest mentors. He’s helped me along the way throughout my career.”
Ansley was an assistant at Huntingdon College, an NCAA Division III school in Montgomery, Ala., when he first met Pruitt, and the pair eventually worked together at Alabama in 2010-11 before Ansley came to Tennessee as the cornerbacks coach in 2012. He also coached the secondary and was co-defensive coordinator at Kentucky (2013-2015) before reuniting with Pruitt at Alabama as the DBs coach (2016-17).
“Coming back here, working here at Tennessee in 2012, the familiarity with the campus, the fanbase, it was a really easy sell for me to come back,” Ansley said.
Tennessee’s hire of Ansley was a coup after the 14-year coaching veteran and two-time national champion transformed the Raiders’ defensive back unit into one of the NFL’s most improved last fall.
The Raiders had 14 interceptions with Ansley in 2018 after totaling only five in 2017. Ansley coached Gareon Conley in Oakland. Conley finished fifth in the NFL with 15 passes defended as he made tremendous strides in his second year in the league, starting 14 games after appearing in only two games as a rookie.
Ansley believes his NFL experience will give him an advantage back in college football.
“I think that just gives me a little more credibility with the guys because all of them always ask me ‘how is the league, how is practice different than what we do here, how is the 16-game schedule with the preseason,’” he said. “I think it gives a coach a little bit more of a credibility factor on dealing with guys that want to go to the NFL.”