Micah Hannemann has been a mainstay in BYU’s defensive secondary since his freshman year. As one half of a standout safety tandem with Kai Nacua in 2016, Hannemann is now left looking for his 2017 counterpart with Nacua’s departure.
“Right now I feel like there are a lot of good safeties that we have in our defensive backfield,” said Hannemann. “During spring ball the coaches are doing a really good job of developing our group. We’re all getting equal reps and kind of on an equal level right now. That’s how good everyone is.”
BYU’s coaching staff has used spring ball to try new players out at different positions, including moving Matt Hadley to running back and cornerback Kamel Greene to safety.
“There are a lot of people who haven’t played safety before like Kamel [Greene] who was moved over to safety,” said Hannemann. “Kamel is doing really well and has been making some good adjustments to safety, but he’s still getting the position down and learning how to play as a safety rather than a cornerback. He’s a fast player with really good speed, so if he can get things down he’ll be a good one.
Hannemann stated that the players are all on equal ground in spring camp as the coaches evaluate progress and talent. However, there are two players Hannemann feels have stood out so far.
“Well, right now it’s been kind of even, but the guy that have been playing with me are guys like Tanner Jacobson and Zayne Anderson,” said Hannemann. “Those are the two guys that played a good amount last season. They’re the guys pushing with the one’s right now.”
Tanner Jacobson is the younger brother of former BYU wide receiver McKay Jacobson. Jacobson is a junior this season after transferring from Texas Tech after he served an LDS mission.
“Tanner is a really good player and played at Texas Tech where I hear he tore it up before going on a mission,” said Hannemann. “He played in the Big 12 and against some big time talent. He’s also really physical and has good speed. He’s also a really quick learner and knows how to read route patterns and put himself in good position. He’s doing really well over spring.”
Zayne Anderson is a 6-2, 200-pound junior out of Stansbury Park, Utah. He received playing time in 2016, mostly on special teams, but he did play against Boise State, where he recovered a fumble.
“Zayne knows the defense really well and really studied what Kai did,” Hannemann said. “He’s a good player and is really aggressive back there. He likes to play physical and likes to come up and hit guys. Zayne is a smart player and does a good job in reacting to what the offense does and putting himself in good position to make the play. He’s had a good spring camp.”
Another safety that is beginning to emerge is a transfer from the University of Utah. Austin Lee is considered to be one of the more physical defensive players in the Cougars’ backfield and is working his way up the depth chart.
“Yeah, Austin Lee is coming up and doing really well,” said Hannemann. “He’s still learning the defense and getting things down but he’s someone that is coming on strong. I like Austin and I played with him in high school a little bit. He’s looking really good.”
Kalani Sitake mentioned during interviews last week that Lee could see playing time this year due to his progress, physicality, and growth during spring camp.
“Austin is a physical player and brings that physicality to the backfield. He’s really strong and loves to hit people,” Hannemann said. “He’s a solid tackler and doesn’t shy away from contact.”
What will make safety play much better this season is the fact BYU has two very talented cornerbacks in Dayan Ghanwoloku and Troy Warner. The level of talent on the corners has freed up the safeties to roam more and make plays.
“It’s fun playing with Dayan and Troy,” Hannemann said. “Lately I’ve been playing the left side, so I’ve been playing with Dayan and I love playing with him. It’s so fun playing with Dayan because it’s easy. You know, he’s so good that I trust him when I’m play halves so I can play better. He allows me to play better on my side and it’s the same with Troy.
“Also, Dayan trusts me and I trust him so when we get the play in it only takes us no even a second before we both know what we need to do because our chemistry is so good.”
This level of unspoken chemistry takes time to develop between two players. Hannemann says both he and Ghanwoloku have it.
“That’s something that usually takes a long time to develop with your cornerbacks but not with us,” he said. “We’re always on the same page and that helps us to play as one regardless of the situation, which is really nice. That’s why it’s so fun because we’re like one player out there.”