Every offseason, Derrick Ansley’s name is a regular rider on the Southeastern Conference coaching carousel.
That didn’t change this offseason.
Kentucky’s defensive backs coach was in high demand.
“I had SEC coaches calling me; I had SEC coaches flying in here and going to his house and we got him to stay,” Coach Mark Stoops said Monday at a news conference that mainly was supposed to introduce UK’s new hires on the other side of the ball.
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But Ansley was a bit of news, too, with Stoops announcing that he was given the title of co-defensive coordinator next season with D.J. Eliot, who has had the title since arriving at UK three seasons ago.
“It is not in any way, shape or form any type of demotion to D.J. Eliot,” Stoops said. “It’s the exact same title. He’s the defensive coordinator. He will make the calls.”
The new title is a way to reward Ansley, Stoops said.
“And to continue to give him more responsibility, to groom him and put him in a position of growth and responsibility. He’s earned that. He does a quality job.”
When asked about speculation that he’d been asked to join Kirby Smart’s new staff at Georgia, Ansley declined to discuss openings.
“The opportunity for me to stay here and be with Coach Stoops another year down the road was very enticing,” Ansley said. “Talked it over with my wife and we made the best decision for us and that’s staying here at UK.”
Being a full-time defensive coordinator is a long-term goal for Ansley, who is excited about his new opportunity at Kentucky.
“At the end of the day, this what we got here at Kentucky is good and we’ve got a lot of unfinished business to get this done, next year and moving forward,” Ansley continued.
It doesn’t sound like his role will change significantly. Stoops equated it with something regularly done on offense when there’s a ground game coach or a passing coordinator.
“Maybe looking at third downs more or something like that,” Ansley said of his new duties. “Whatever Coach Eliot needs me to do, I’m always able to do that. I’ve always looked at the pass game very extensively since I’ve been here. That role will not change.”
Kentucky has not made any contract terms available yet because they have not been signed by UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart. He is out of town until later this week.
In February of last year, Ansley was promoted from cornerbacks coach to defensive backs coach and he signed a new deal paying him $275,000 and running through June 30, 2017.
With the announcement of the two new offensive coaches, the move of running backs coach Chad Scott to wide receivers coach and the promotion of Ansley, Stoops said he is not planning to make any other staff changes.
“But people are still pursuing our coaches and you never know how that’s going to go,” he said, noting that another UK defensive coach turned down a Power Five defensive coordinator job and that schools have asked for permission to speak with Eliot about Division I head coaching jobs.
“We want to keep them,” Stoops said. “I’m very confident in this staff. I’m very comfortable with this staff. … I’ve been very fortunate to keep the rest of the guys intact to this point.”
UK is in the hunt for a quarterback, Stoops confirmed. He clarified that the first snap of the spring belongs to Drew Barker, but that the sophomore is going to have to earn everything beyond that.
“The first day of spring ball he’ll take the first reps unless something happens between now and then that would put him in a negative situation,” Stoops said. “All positions will be guys that have to earn their right on the field, earn their spots, and that’s the same at quarterback.”
UK lost much of its QB depth after the season, with the announcement that Patrick Towles is going to be a graduate transfer to Boston College, and the holiday tweet by Reese Phillips that he plans to play elsewhere, too.
Junior-college quarterback Stephen Johnson II announced last week that he had received an offer from UK and that he plans to visit Lexington later this month.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., is ranked by 247Sports.com as a three-star recruit and the No. 5 dual-threat QB in the juco ranks for 2016.
Stoops and new co-offensive coordinator Darin Hinshaw are hopeful to have a strong competition at that spot.
“Darin’s a great evaluator, a great quarterback coach,” Stoops said. “I like that when I talk to him about bringing in guys to open that up every year.”
Hinshaw, who was at Cincinnati the past three seasons, had a high evaluation of Barker out of high school, but the former Conner star already had his eyes on Kentucky.
“Darin went and he evaluated him and came back and said, ‘Oh, God. This kid’s really phenomenal,’ and everything that we were looking for,” said Eddie Gran, head coach of the offense. “We just didn’t get that relationship part with him because they had him sewed up and he was a Wildcat.”