It’s different. It’s more talking and getting others involved instead of just doing my job. I think I can make a contribution there. —BYU's Dayan Ghanwoloku,on the move to safety
PROVO — Dayan Ghanwoloku stood on the sidelines Friday in BYU’s first major scrimmage of spring camp witnessing players bash one another at full speed in a game simulation.
Ghanwoloku wasn’t alone. Many experienced defensive players were held out of the physical practice, one designed to highlight BYU’s run game.
So, it was kind of a sit-out club for defensive stars.
“It’s because they’re the ones with the most experience,” said head coach Kalani Sitake.
He explained BYU’s younger players needed to get themselves on film, gain experience and in the case of some offensive players like fullback Kyle Griffitts and offensive lineman Brady Christensen, it was an opportunity to show a new staff what they had.
“Sione Takitaki, Zayne Anderson, and Butch Pau'u have played a lot of football and it is more important for (linebacker) Christian Folau and Sawyer Powell to get experience,” said the coach.
Ghanwoloku is the Cougars’ best cover corner but he’s spent this spring playing safety, a spot vacated by former starter Micah Hannemann. It’s a role Ghanwoloku accepts with anticipation because it demands he take on more of a leader’s role barking out assignments as a kind of overseer and defensive quarterback.
Midweek, quarterback-turned-running back Austin Kafentzis told coaches he’d like to try work at safety, a place he thought he could earn a spot faster on the depth chart.
Moving Ghanwoloku to safety is kind of risky since he had an outstanding season in 2017 with big interceptions and sure tackling on a defense that had its moments.
“They were trying to teach some of the younger players what to do out there and see if they could tackle,” said Ghanwoloku of his sideline perch. “I played special teams so they know where I am.
“Playing safety is a new experience for me,” said Ghanwoloku. “As a corner, all I needed to do was play in front of the safety and do my job, but now I have to tell the linebackers and corners what to do. It is all about communication. It’s different. It’s more talking and getting others involved instead of just doing my job. I think I can make a contribution there.”
Coaches told Ghanwoloku to take on the safety job this spring with no indication he’d be going back to corner. It may be a situation where he’s cross-training but it also might be that his experience with coverages, his tackle, and cover ability is needed in place of Hannemann and he could be there to stay.
“I don’t mind it, really. I’m not complaining; I like it. I’ll do whatever I need to do to help the team get better.”
Asked what he sees in Jeff Grimes’ offense this spring as it comes at him every day, Ghanwoloku said what stands out is that the offense is coming at the defense fast.
“The offense is faster so it is making us play harder and check things down quicker.”
He said Matt Bushman is a big threat and Micah Simon and Akile Davis are pushing things every day. “It’s like they have a chip on their shoulders and have something to prove. It’s all good.”
Friday’s scrimmage featured a lot of work by running back Zach Katoa and Squally Canada who both took advantage of very aggressive run blocking. Canada scored on a touchdown run of 35-plus yards and Katoa scored on a short scamper, then had the ball knocked out of his hands at the goal line on another carry.
• The offensive line is tone-setter supreme.
• Zach Wilson has superior run skills for a QB.
• Katoa runs with confidence and a nice bounce.
• QB Beau Hoge is far more physical than a year ago.
• Pleasing Grimes may be impossible.