BYU’s linebacking corps in 2018: Familiar faces in new places

New linebackers coach Ed Lamb has plenty of seniors to work with this season, but some are in unfamiliar positions

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars Zayne Anderson (23) tackles Portland State Vikings wide receiver Kahlil Dawson (5) during the game at LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday, August 26, 2017.

Provo • Although BYU’s linebacking corps in 2017 featured one of the best defenders in program history in San Francisco 49ers’ rookie Fred Warner, it never became the dominant unit it was projected to be.

New linebackers coach Ed Lamb hopes to change that, but acknowledges is it going to take a lot of work.

Lamb said at BYU Football Media Day in June that the three starting linebackers will be converted safety Zayne Anderson at flash linebacker (Warner’s old spot), converted defensive end Sione Takitaki at weakside linebacker and Butch Pau’u at middle linebacker. All three are seniors.

“Those guys have already played a lot of football for BYU and give us a really solid nucleus,” Lamb said.

Another senior, Matt Hadley, also played a lot of football, mainly at safety, before he suffered a knee injury that cut his season short last year. Hadley received a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA and is back for another year.

“I consider Matt a starter,” Lamb said. “No question in my mind, he will play as many snaps as everybody else, assuming that guys remain healthy and all that. … He could play any [linebacker] position. He is just so versatile in everything that he does.”

Actually, the entire two-deep chart at linebacker could be filled by seniors, because just behind the the quartet of aforementioned players are seniors Adam Pulsipher, Morgan Unga and Riggs Powell, a walk-on.


This is the first installment of an occasional series in August about BYU’s position groups. Today: the linebackers.

“I love what Adam Pulsipher brings to us from a leadership standpoint, and his knowledge of the game,” Lamb said. “He also has a lot of versatility because he is so smart at what he does, has a lot of efficiency in his movement.”

Lamb said Powell is a former junior college quarterback who walked on and has found a role.

“He is pushing for not just playing time, not just a backup role, but legitimate reps and contributing to a winning effort,” Lamb said.

Unga missed spring camp with an injury but is back to push Anderson for the starting flash spot. Another outside linebacker in 2017, Johnny “Ku-J” Tapusoa, has been moved to fullback. Will Sedgewick and Jeremiah Ieremia are no longer on the roster.

Isaiah Kaufusi, AJ Lolohea and Christian Folau will add depth, along with freshmen Alex Miskela, Max Tooley and Jackson Kaufusi.