Ansah expecting to be a bigger factor

He started out at outside linebacker, but then was moved to boundary side defensive end. Now, 6-foot-6-inch, 270-pound freak athlete Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah has been taking reps once again at the Will side linebacker position, where he believes his role will be much more expanded for his senior year.

Ezekiel Ansah might be entering his third year of playing football, but the senior from Ghana, Africa has been dunked in the knowledge tank multiple times while playing various positions over the past few years.

"I've been playing d-line and then I've been playing Will linebacker. I started out at d-line and I was playing more d-line than Will, but this fall I'm starting out at Will," Ansah said. "I don't know if I'm going to go back to d-line, but I'm just ready to play at any position that they want me to play in."

Having received a crash course in football, Ansah will most likely finish out his college career at Will linebacker.

"I wouldn't say that I understand the whole defense, because you have the defensive backs and they're doing their thing," Ansah said. "Within the two positions of d-tackle and Will linebacker, I would say I know them very well. Knowing both positions has helped me to learn more techniques and know how to work well within both positions.

"If I'm playing on the d-line, I know what the outside linebacker is doing, and that helps me be more effective. If I'm playing Will linebacker I know what the defensive lineman is doing, so that helps me to be a better outside linebacker. I don't think I'll be moved back to the d-line, but if they do [move me], I'll be ready."

Cougar defensive star Kyle Van Noy has seen Ansah rapidly progress through the positions he's been assigned. Whether on the d-line or at the Will, Ansah has gained the trust of his fellow teammates.

"Well, Ziggy is a player and he's big, strong and fast and that's what you want as a football player," said Van Noy. "Now we're just helping him gather his thoughts before plays and gather his technique to help him be more polished to make plays. The more and more we work with him, the better and better he gets, and the better and better he gets, the better he'll be able to help our team and help everybody around us. I'm confident in him that he'll do what he needs to do to make plays."

"I think I'm contributing to the team and I like how the players trust me," Ansah said. "I feel like they all trust me now and that's a big difference and it encourages me to play harder. It's great and I love it."

Ansah's understanding of what it takes to be successful as a Will linebacker has progressed so much that he's perfectly comfortable with any situation on any down.

"I totally understand it and feel I could now contribute on every play," he said. "[I'm] taking more reps and when I watch film I understand what's going on and I'm able to learn from my mistakes. It's good."

If Ansah has reached a stage in his development where he could potentially see more field time, the implications of that become very exciting for Cougar fans. Ansah is now confident that he would perform at the level of a more experienced player every single down.

"It would be perfect," he said. "I will be great and you're going to see it."

So are BYU fans going to see it? Well, he seems to think so.

"You're going to see it," Ansah said with a smile. "I'm going to get more playing time in everything. Coach has talked to me about playing hard, and if I deserve to start, I will start. I try not to think about that, but just want to play hard and make plays."

"Yes, yes there's no question about it," said Van Noy about Ezekiel playing more this year. "There is a chance he could get some starting time this year because he's so smart. His major is some bio stats thing that is ridiculous, and only around five people have done his major probably. He's super smart and picks up on things pretty fast. He's done it pretty well here and I'm glad he's on my team."

If Ansah can truly perform at a high level as a starter with full trust from the coaches, that opens up some rather exiting opportunities for the defensive staff. Playing Van Noy at the Sam linebacker position with Ansah at the Will creates an intriguing dynamic duo the likes of which have never been seen before at BYU.

"You could do that," Van Noy said with a smile on his face. "I'm playing both sides at Sam and Will right now, so we'll see. They're going to get me to play wherever I can. I came here to be a versatile player and to play all the positions. Like I said, I like playing wherever I can make plays.

"If Ziggy keeps going, it's going to be hard to keep him off the field. So, wherever he starts playing at, and playing well, I hope he continues to play even better so he can see the field. He's got to do everything in his power to force them to play him and not take him off the field. He's on his way to doing that.

"The upgrade at outside linebacker – even with everybody that is there right now – Is really high right now. It's all about how hard each one of us work and how hard each one of us want it. If Ziggy is the starting Will linebacker, I'm confident in him, knowing that we have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball that can work as a group. I like playing wherever I can make plays."

Although it's still too early to make an assessment regarding where Ansah is at, Cougar fans are dreaming of the thought of having two potentially NFL-caliber outside linebackers on the field this season.

"Ziggy is a freak and a specimen," Van Noy said. "The NFL is already looking at him and he's only been playing in his third year of football. We're just trying to get him right one more year so we can send him off right. They sky's the limit for him and we're working to help him reach that potential. He's doing a great job and I think he'll help us this year."

"Well, this is the beginning and I don't consider me having not played football before," Ansah said. "To me it's just history and I don't look back and say, ‘Man, I'm great because I've come a long ways.' I like to look at the present and look towards the future. That's why this is only the beginning."

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