Laura Seitz, Deseret News
PROVO — During his mission in Costa Rica, sophomore Daniel Sorensen fully expected to play outside linebacker at BYU when he returned.
But secondary coach Nick Howell had other ideas.
Sorensen came home last December, and Howell immediately informed him he was being changed to kat safety — a keystone of the Cougars' defense, and the position previously manned by first-team All-Mountain West Conference performer Andrew Rich.
"Coach Howell told me as soon as I walked through the doors. He didn't even ask me," Sorensen said of the switch. "Before that, my mindset was that I was going to have to put on 40 pounds and get back to where I was to play outside linebacker. But I couldn't be happier with the move."
Sorensen began acclimating to kat safety during spring ball, but, really, he's no stranger to the safety position. The 6-foot-2, 206-pound sophomore arrived at BYU three years ago as a safety before being moved to outside linebacker.
"We recruited him as a safety. He played outside 'backer, really a nickel, which is similar to our kat," Howell said. "It's nothing different. We knew he'd be a safety. It was a need in 2008 to play him in nickel packages because he was really good. We've always known he was a safety. He came back (from a mission) in really good shape. He knows what he's doing. He's doing really good."
Coach Bronco Mendenhall, who is also the defensive coordinator, said Sorensen is the leading candidate to start at kat safety, just ahead of sophomore Jray Galea'i. Mendenhall said that Sorensen appears to be Rich's heir apparent, and that Sorensen is capable of filling the void left by Rich, who led the team in tackles (110), tackles-for-loss (7.5), interceptions (5), and pass breakups (8) last season.
"I like his size, I like his speed, and I like his mindset," Mendenhall said. "That combination is kind of what you hope for at safety. He runs well and likes to tackle. That's a really nice combination there. Then you add good ball skills with it. I think it's a really nice replacement right now for Andrew Rich. It will take time for him to be as consistent as Andrew, but I'm confident he can play."
Playing kat safety carries with it plenty of responsibility, and Sorensen said he's up for the challenge.
"You have to be able to come up hard on the run and play the pass and in years past, it's where the leaders on defense have played, like Andrew Rich," he said. "We run the same defense as the (Pittsburgh) Steelers do with Troy Polamalu. You see what he's able to do in that defense. The scheme is based all around the kat position. "I'm fortunate to play that position. It's humbling to know all the guys have played before you and the shoes you have to fill.
"It's my favorite position to play because you have a lot of responsibility and a lot of people counting on you. Really, it's a lot of fun. The kat position is set up to make a lot of plays on run and on pass plays. You're in on almost every play, so it stays exciting. It gives you an opportunity for big hits and some picks."
Though he's only been home from his mission for several months, Sorensen said that physically he feels "just like I did before my mission."
He explained that he walked 8-10 miles a day and I went through six pairs of shoes. "I didn't notice much of a difference when I got back, physically. More than the physical part, it was the mental aspect, getting back the football mindset."
As a true freshman, Sorensen was moved to outside linebacker near the end of fall camp, and he admitted that he struggled at times with the new position.
- BYU's big plays, big second half, spell...
- Hillary's grace: Watching her daughter...
- BYU-Utah State: How to watch, listen to or...
- Utah's first family of rodeo: Riding buckin'...
- Utes outlast Colorado to cap best Pac-12...
- Dick Harmon: After tossing 4 TDs, BYU's...
- BYU's bowl destination — Las Vegas or...
- BYU-USU video: 5 plays that turned the game...
- BYU expecting a 'dogfight' in Logan... 60
- Utes fall to No. 23 in playoff... 52
- Utes outlast Colorado to cap best... 35
- BYU holds on for tougher-than-expected... 34
- Doug Robinson: It's the same old sad... 32
- Utah State denies David Collette's... 30
- Mangum 'humbled' to be BYU's... 29
- Doug Robinson: Colorado-Utah: In the... 23