One of the Raiders’ weaknesses in 2017 was the play of its secondary. Top two draft picks Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu provided little production, injuries sidelined other front-line players and the performance of cornerbacks and safeties overall didn’t meet expectations.
New head coach Jon Gruden reportedly has hired Alabama secondary coach Derrick Ansley to help address that weakness.
The hire, first reported by Footballscoop.com, brings aboard a young coach who’s had success with the Crimson Tide the past two seasons. This season, national-champion Alabama led the nation in pass efficiency defense, allowing opponents to complete 54.1 percent of throws for 5.3 yards per attempt. The Tide yielded just seven TD throws and picked off 17 passes.
Ansley was hired as defensive coordinator at Colorado State a week ago, but decided the chance to coach with the Raiders was too good an offer to refuse. Ansley, 35, was a graduate assistant at Alabama in 2010-2011, then moved to Kentucky where he coached cornerbacks and the secondary. He also coached at Tennessee. Before being a graduate assistant at Alabama he coached five seasons at Div. III Huntingdon College in Alabama.
At Alabama, Ansley built a reputation as a great recruiter and an up-and-coming coaching talent. This season, several Crimson Tide secondary players are top draft prospects, including safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who this season won the Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player and the Thorpe Award as best defensive back.
“Derrick Ansley does a really, really good job with our players,” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban last year. “He works hard. He’s got good relationships with them, which I think is really important. He worked really hard with the young guys that we have in here trying to teach them and help them develop. I think our players really respect the job that he does and respect him.”
Ansley was a free safety at Troy State who “seemed to always be in the right place at the right time,” said one former assistant coach at the school. At Troy he started 40 straight games and intercepted 19 passes, the second-highest total in school history.