BYU’s safeties trying to fill void left by Nacua

Nick Wagner, Deseret News

Boise State wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck faces off with BYU defensive back Micah Hannemann during game in Boise on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016.

PROVO — When it comes to BYU’s safeties this season, much of the talk has been the departure of ball-hawking defensive back Kai Nacua, who is now in the NFL.

Cougar coaches have underscored that not just one guy will fill that void at free safety. While senior Micah Hannemann is the starter at strong safety, several players will be roaming the defensive secondary for BYU.

“The days of one player on defense playing any position are gone,” said safeties coach Ed Lamb. “There are too many snaps, too much tempo. Every position where we attempted to do that last season we ended up with an injury. We’ll see at least four safeties regularly play.”

Others that are expected to see significant time include senior Matt Hadley, Zayne Anderson and Austin Lee at free safety, and Tanner Jacobson and Kamel Greene at strong safety. Sawyer Powell and freshman Chaz Ah You are also in the mix.

As far as replacing Nacua?

“Nobody has the same mentality as Kai,” Lamb said. “He had his own set of strengths and weaknesses. Matt Hadley right now is the starter at that position and Zayne Anderson is pushing hard right behind him.

“There are a bunch of guys that are all together right now. We’ve got some guys that are stronger than Kai was in some areas to make that transition. Hopefully the strong safety guys, Tanner and Micah Hannemann, are better than they were a year ago. Right now it appears that’s the case.”

As a group, the Cougar safeties will try to compensate for the loss of Nacua, who intercepted 12 passes the past two seasons.

“You all know Kai, the player he was and the impact he made,” Hadley said. “For all of us, a great player left but however big the hole was, we’re going to have to fill it and do what we can to produce and pick up where a great safety left off.”

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