Kat Safety or Free Safety, What Shall It Be?

McQueen High School running back and secondary star Chris Warner was considered the top athlete from the state of Nevada when he signed an LOI with BYU back in 2003. Now home from serving an LDS mission to Fukuoka, Japan, Warner is exploring his options in the Cougar secondary.

After foregoing scholarship offers and recruiting options to universities such as UNLV, Fresno State, Boise State and Nevada, Chris Warner made the choice to walk on at BYU. During his first fall camp as a BYU Cougar, coaches made the decision that Warner would be a defender under Coach Mendenhall. Those plans changed as fall camp ended. Coach Crowton came to his versatile Nevada star and asked him to come be a member of his offense. Crowton wanted Warner to play running back, the position he played when he was in high school and helped McQueen to a 14-0 record and a state championship.

"I was here during my freshman year when the 3-3-5 was here but during fall camp I was switched from being a safety to running back," said Warner. "I was playing the safety position with Coach Mendenhall during fall camp and like the last week of fall camp Coach Crowton came up to me and said they we're going to switch me to running back."

Warner gladly obliged and made his way over onto the offensive side of the ball after spending weeks preparing as a defender. Soon he would be making another switch that had nothing to do with football. He received a mission call to Japan where the National Honors Society member would serve for two years.

When Warner returned from Japan, the landscape of BYU football changed drastically. There is no more 3-3-5 defense, no Coach Mitchell, new uniforms, a new head coach, a new offense, a new offensive coordinator and new teammates. For Warner, the program has taken on a new persona under Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall.

"We have a great group of guys and there is a big difference from the feel of the team from my freshman year to how Coach Mendenhall has changed things," Warner said. "Coach Mendenhall is someone that everybody wants to get behind and you just really want to do good for him and he's the kind of coach that makes you want to do your best for BYU and everybody. He's a great motivator and a great leader. He's somebody that you want to go to battle for everyday."

As BYU beings to rap up spring camp, Warner finds himself back on the defensive side of the ball. He is benefiting from knowledgeable coaches who want to bring out the best in him.

"The defense is great and the coaches are doing a really good job of informing and teaching us to become acclimated to it," said Warner. "I think everyone in the secondary is working really hard to get it down so we can perform better on the field.

"I'm playing safety right now but I'm switching back and fourth between the kat safety and free safety position. The kat Safety is more the run stopper and they guy who usually comes up to make the hit, and the free stays a little further back. He also comes up and makes a play on the run but has to be a little more patient.

Coaches are trying Warner at a couple spots in the defensive secondary in an effort to find a position that best suits his abilities and defensive need. True to from, Warner simply obliges and gives it his all.

"I've been switched to free this past week just to see how things go," he said. "I'm just trying to go and do what the coaches want me to do. I just want to go at it a 100 percent, but I kind of tweaked my hamstring a little bit and I'm trying to get over that. I just want to get back to 100 percent and get back to going at it 100 percent.

"You can watch as much film as you want to but there's nothing like getting the real experience by being out on the practice field and putting things into practice under more real conditions."

Playing the different safety positions, Warner has had to reassert himself constantly by competing against others more established and experienced at those positions. Working his way up against the odds is something Warner has done ever since he passed up scholarship offers to walk on at BYU. Warner is no stranger to the challenge.

"Since I've been moving back and forth, I've been sent back with the three's but I was with the two's for the first week and a half of camp," said Warner. "Right now I'm going with the three's at this time. For me just trying to get back into football shape after a mission and being off for two years—it's like it is brand new for me trying to get back into the football mode. As spring ball progresses, everything just kind of polishes up over time as you get back into it."

Warner made good use of the year since returning from his mission. While the progress may have been slower that he would have liked, he is regaining his pre-mission physical form.

"As far as conditioning is concerned, I think I'm in pretty good shape," said Warner. "Obviously I have to get back the weight and get a lot stronger. I still have some missionary legs but I hope I can get rid of that really quick."

Over the summer Warner stated he will continue to work hard to improve his physical abilities and become more acclimated to the free safety position. His speed, quickness and aggressive style of play will help bolster the secondary against the deep pass. Warner expects to be more competitive come fall camp.

"Over the summer you have to evaluate yourself and make goals and strive to achieve those goals," Warner said. "You have to make an effort to improve every day to get better that way you can put yourself into a position to make an even great impact right from the beginning when fall practice starts. I'm having fun and I'm learning as much as I can so I can be as prepared as I can when the season starts."

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