Provo • Nobody on the current BYU football roster can adequately replace outside linebacker Fred Warner, one of the best defensive players in program history.
But Zayne Anderson is going to give it a try.
Yes,we’re talking about that Zayne Anderson, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior who played safety last season and was the fifth-leading tackler on the team with 61 takedowns.
In one of the surprise moves of spring camp, which began Monday, Anderson has been taking reps at the “flash” linebacker spot that Warner played so well the past few years. Warner recently participated in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis and is expected to be selected in April’s NFL Draft.
“We will see how it goes,” said Anderson, a product of Stansbury High. “It is spring. It’s not a permanent thing. I am willing to do whatever the coaches need me to do.”
One of Warner’s backups last year, redshirt senior Morgan Unga, is injured and not yet participating in spring practices. Another backup, freshman Chaz Ah You, departed on an LDS Church mission. So coaches are taking a look at Anderson, freshman returned missionary Hirkley Latu, junior Riggs Powell and redshirt sophomore Colin Tompson a walk-on from Navajo Pine High in Crystal, N.M.
“We have had several [position changes] on defense that are more experimental in nature to try and get the best 11 guys on the field,” associate head coach Ed Lamb said. “Another way to look at it is we are trying to get the best 22 guys on defense and make sure we are always ready in case of injury or fatigue and the natural rotation that happens now in college football on defense with the pace the offensive guys like to play at from game to game.”
The other possible changes include moving cornerbacks Dayan Ghanwoloku and Troy Warner to the safety positions (when the younger Warner returns from a foot injury) and defensive end Sione Takitaki to boundary linebacker.
“Moving Zayne back to safety is going to be easy to do, so we just wanted to see what he can do [linebacker],” said defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki. “Right now he needs to learn that spot.”
Anderson said he needs to gain about 10 pounds to play the position. Coaches envision him to be more like a third safety on the field although he’ll line up like a linebacker.
“I would like to get to 215. That will be doable,” Anderson said. “But being fast is one of my strengths, so I want to stay fast, but get a bit bigger. When you are down in the trenches with the linemen so you need to have some weight on you.”
Whichever position he plays, Anderson said his goal is to get four interceptions and lead the team in tackles, as Fred Warner did last year when he recorded 87 tackles, including nine for loss.
“I am trying to go to the NFL and stuff, so I really need to have a big year,” Anderson said. “I am a different player than Fred. We are quite a bit different. Fred is bigger than me. We play differently. We will see what happens with the switch.”
Anderson had two interceptions last year and forced three fumbles. He said the offseason changes coaches made to install more accountability and discipline into the program after the 4-9 season in 2017 are slowly taking shape.
“You can see it in the weight room, with our academics, with everything,” he said. “You can really feel it everywhere. There’s definitely a new attitude around here.”
About Zayne Anderson
Year • Senior
Height/Weight • 6-2, 2-5
High School • Stansbury Park
2017 Season • 61 tackles, 2 pass breakups