Courtesy of BYU Football/BYU Photo

BYU junior DB Zayne Anderson has hopes of playing more in 2017 as a junior but says the entire safety group is improving for BYU

BYU ballhawk safety Kai Nacua recorded 14 career interceptions, the most since defensive back Derwin Gray roamed the Cougar backfield from 1989-92. The challenge for BYU safeties coach Ed Lamb is finding a replacement for Nacua. The good news is there is plenty of talent competing for the spot. One is junior Zayne Anderson, who talked about the battle and his personal development.

BYU junior defensive back Zayne Anderson is moving towards the upperclassman ranks and believes the time is now for him to step it up. With the Kai Nacua graduated and looking at a potential NFL career, Anderson sees his opportunity to replace the departed BYU star.  

“This off-season, you know, I finished last year as a sophomore and now I’m coming in as a junior,” said Anderson. “I have to step it up a little bit, so I’ve been grinding with the safety group in the weight room. I’m just trying to get better as a safety technique-wise, and that’s what we’ve really been focusing on over this spring: focus on technique and just improving overall within in that area.”

For Anderson, there are three aspects of safety technique he’s been focusing on to further his chances of earning more playing time.

“I think first of all the biggest thing is patience,” said Anderson. “I think having the patience in being able to let things develop so I can read what’s happening is important. Then use your technique by being able to turn your hips, break on the ball, and make a play. Those are some of the things the coaches emphasis.”

Micah Hannemann is projected to play the strong safety position leaving the competition fierce and intense to fill that vacated free safety spot. Tanner Jacobson is pushing for playing time along with Austin Lee, who is coming on strong.

“I think BYU fans can expect a lot of competition to find the best player to fill that spot. That means there will be a lot of leadership from the safety position,” said Anderson. “We do have a lot of guys coming back with some experience. We did lose Kai Nacua, which was a big piece of our defense, but someone will step up and fill his shoes. I think all BYU fans can expect a lot of leadership and production from the free safety position this year.”

To help facilitate the development of his players, BYU safeties coach Ed Lamb has used Nacua’s play as a visual teaching aid to help them understand what they need to do on the field.

“Kai was just a ballhawk and that describes him well,” said Anderson. “He was always in position and smart in the game. He just had those instincts. Coach Lamb sat all of us down and talked to each of us personally and said, ‘Look at Kai. Look at what he did.’ With me Coach Lamb told me that I needed to be more patient. That’s kind of what he went over with me, and so he talked about Kai’s patience and what he did. We’ve all got the skills to do what Kai did, but we just need to learn how to apply those skills. We have to know how to put ourselves in the right position, use good technique, and do the little things that made Kai so good.”

“When we’re in the film room we break down those little techniques and try to apply them,” said Anderson. “The coaches really emphasis the little techniques Kai did out on the field, and if we really trust those techniques we’ll start kicking it in gear. I think overall we’re coming along as a group.”

While spring camp is an evaluation time, Anderson feels there are three areas of improvement have occurred for the overall safety group in general.

“I think we have all improved a lot over spring,” said Anderson. “Spring camp has really helped us with building our chemistry with the cornerbacks, develop technique, and establish overall communication. Overall, everyone is getting better at the safety group.”

Anderson believes the work put in in the offseason and also so far in spring ball will benefit the entire secondary and the defense as a whole.

“Overall as a defensive backfield we want to challenge receivers, especially one-on-one situations when we’re in man coverage,” said Anderson. “I think we’ve really stepped it up in that part of our defensive development by being able to cover one-on-one and man up on dudes. That is one thing that Coach Lamb has really emphasized with us is being able to challenge these guys and cover anyone in man situation.”

Playing man coverage against a wide receiver group that boasts the speed and athleticism that BYU has has helped Anderson and his defensive back teammates.

“Jonah Trinnaman, Talon Shumway, Akile Davis, Micah Simon, and Beau Tanner are really fast,” said Anderson. “They’re all looking good and they have all that speed. Having that much speed has really helped prepare us for everyone we’re playing. Those dudes are fast and it’s been good for us as defensive backfield overall.”

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