HOOVER, Ala. — Derrick Ansley has done his share of studying Mark Stoops' secondaries through the years.
The head coach is his boss and now is helping Ansley coach the secondary at Kentucky, so they have similar thoughts about what a secondary should look like.
And for the first time, this year's cornerbacks and safeties "look like a Coach Stoops secondary," Ansley said back on national signing day, when UK signed five players who not only looked the part but appeared to have some of the speed and length Stoops had at stops like Miami, Arizona and Florida State.
The head coach and UK players said as much Wednesday at Southeastern Conference Media Days.
Never miss a local story.
Many times in his first two seasons at UK, Stoops has called cornerback an "area of concern." Only three of UK's 15 interceptions last season came from that position.
But he thinks it's getting closer to being an area of strength with three redshirt freshmen (Mike Edwards, Darius West and Jared Tucker) joining the fray along with the players signed in February.
On the post-spring depth chart, West was running as the No. 2 safety, with Tucker at the No. 3 corner spot and Edwards No. 3 at the other safety position.
More than anything, Stoops is happy to have some options at positions where there were few, if any, especially after injuries late last season.
"I feel good about the group of guys that we have coming in and I am looking forward to working with those guys," Stoops said Wednesday. "If you look at them, they're all big and tall and rangy.
"Chris Westry's one guy that stands out right now that the guys have told me looks really good and can really run, just like we knew coming into it," Stoops said of the 6-foot-4, 180-pound true freshman who reportedly chose UK over Auburn and Florida, among others.
"He's a really tall, rangy guy that can run. But there's quite a few of them — Will Jackson and Derrick Baity and Marcus at safety, Marcus Walker," Stoops said. "So there's a good group of defensive backs coming in, along with Kei Beckham as well."
The group of newcomers has caught the eye of senior safety A.J. Stamps, who said he works out with them every day and then does extra footwork drills with them.
Stamps said the new comers already on campus (mentioning Beckham, Westry and Walker by name) have grown after some initial struggles.
"But I feel like they came a long way," Stamps said. They came a long way from where we started out at the beginning of the summer."
The goal with the last two was to recruit with versatility in mind. Ansley and Stoops want players who can play corner, safety and nickel back.
On signing day, Ansley noted that a player like Beckham could start at nickel and transition to corner. Jackson is a corner who could grow into a safety. He projected that Baity (6-3, 170 pounds) could play all six spots in the secondary and saw Westry as a boundary corner with Walker (6-1, 175 pounds) beginning his career at free safety.
Ansley and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot noted the need for size and speed on the outside and think they have filled that now.
"Not only are they big, but they're very athletic," Eliot said of the defensive backs signees. "Those guys will be able to make plays on jump balls. Those guys can be physical at the line of scrimmage, able to get off blocks."
Cornerback in particular is a position at which many of those taller, faster players could come in and play quickly, Stoops noted at SEC Media Days this week.
"I think it's very hard in application, but it's relatively easy in theory," he said of the corner spot.
"So with all the different schemes and things like that, hey, if you can cover, you can cover," Stoops said. "There are some nuances, obviously, and experience is important, like we always talk about. But if there is one position that if you just need to have the talent and the size, I think it is a position you can plug some guys in."