PROVO — One of the items on BYU's to-do list during the offseason is finding a replacement for star safety Kai Nacua.
Nacua was among the nation’s leaders in interceptions the past couple of years.
Senior Micah Hannemann started every game at the safety spot opposite of Nacua last season. During spring ball, multiple safeties are getting plenty of reps.
“Right now, the top three guys are Micah Hannemann, who played significantly last season, Tanner Jacobson and then Zayne Anderson, who didn’t play a whole lot last season,” said safeties coach Ed Lamb. “(Anderson) had a good offseason and it’s time for him to step up and take the playing time I think he deserves.”
Another safety in the mix is Matt Hadley, who played that position last season but has switched over to running back during spring ball. And there’s Austin Lee, a transfer from Utah.
“Austin’s tough, fast and he has all of the skills,” Lamb said. “He just now picking up the scheme. He’ll push for playing time for sure.”
“I played with (Lee) a little bit in high school,” Hannemann said. “He has a lot of physicality. He’s strong. He’s a little bit shorter than I remembered in high school. I guess I got taller. He’s strong for his size. He likes to hit people and he’s a solid tackler.”
Hannemann said the safeties are focusing on fundamentals and improving this spring.
“Everyone’s getting equal reps,” he said. “Everyone’s on an equal level. It’s fun to play right now.”
END IN SIGHT: The Cougars have just two more weeks of spring practices, including the spring scrimmage on Saturday.
Coach Kalani Sitake is happy overall with what he’s seen from his players.
“Obviously, we have some issues and mostly with guys that are still new to the schemes and the program,” he said. “For the most part, I’m really pleased with the progress of our (returning players). I like what I’m seeing up front with the O-line and D-line. Everything else is going well. I think there’s always things we can fix but for now I’m really pleased with how we’re doing in spring after practice seven.”
As far as his team’s improvement in fundamentals, Sitake said, “We’re seeing it every day. I’m liking the progress that we’re making. I see it with every position group and with a lot of different players. We’re improving.”
SPECIAL TEAMS WORK: Lamb also coaches the special teams and he would like to see improvement.
“We need to be more dynamic in our return game, punt return and kickoff game,” Lamb said. “That’s a phase of the game where we didn’t make an advantage for ourselves during games. I’d like to see that addressed throughout spring.”
Being ready for the season isn’t the goal during spring, however.
“Coming out of spring camp, I don’t think that being ready to play a game on special teams is the goal. It’s the fundamentals of blocking and tackling. We keep the schemes really simple. If we went into a game tomorrow, we wouldn’t be ready on special teams.”