PROVO — Tanner Jacobson isn't the fastest player on the BYU football team, or even the quickest, but as far as a combination of both assets, the junior defensive back may possess the best set on the team.
For this reason, along with others, Jacobson has won the punt returning duties, having earned the job during spring practices. Coaches have since looked for reasons to unseat the Southlake, Texas, native as the primary punt returner, but haven't found one.
"We've tried others back there, and you always test to see if you're going with your best option, but so far Tanner has been that guy and we're very confident in him," said special teams coordinator Ed Lamb.
Jacobson has displayed good shake laterally coupled with adequate vertical speed to do the job well. But it's another aspect, above all others, that put him on top of the chart.
“We start with the guy who has the most secure hands, and Tanner has shown to be that guy who can catch it with the highest percentage rate. He also protects the ball well with the right techniques,” Lamb said. “He also has a low center of gravity, so he’s good left to right. He has a lot of courage, and even though he’s not the fastest or quickest guy, he may be the best combination of the two.”
As far as covering punts and kicks, the team is returning most of those who were on the cover units from last year, along with one very notable addition.
“Fred Warner approached me about being more involved with special teams this year, so we certainly welcomed that,” Lamb said. “It’s tremendous leadership on his part and it certainly helps what we’re working to do.”
Also doing his part to motivate and inspire players on the current roster was the top player out of the Cougar backfield last year.
"Jamaal Williams came here over the summer and talked to guys how special teams is really going to be key in him making the (Green Bay) Packers roster,” Lamb said. “Everyone on the team who has (NFL) aspirations — I’m sure they all listened closely to what he had to say.”
As far as kick returners go, Lamb plans on using Aleva Hifo and Matt Hadley as his primary returners, but may add another player to the mix based on what he's seen throughout fall practices.
“Jonah Trinnaman has done a really nice job as well,” Lamb said of the speedy wideout who clocked a 10.64 100-meter time in high school. “He hits the hole vertically and the challenge now is if he has the courage to play it. Also, does he secure the football? But so far he’s shown both of those things. We reviewed film off of what he’s done in practice and he’s looked really good with everything we want.”
The team's special teams work has been a focus throughout fall camp, with players realizing the importance special teams play can have on the outcome of any game.
“I think it’s easy for our team, with all of our close losses, to see how critical special teams can be,” Lamb said. “Most importantly, for me at least, is that having a strong special teams is a strong indicator of how dedicated we are and how hard we try.”