A healthy Zayne Anderson is delivering hits and leadership for BYU’s defense this season

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah State Aggies running back Gerold Bright (8) is brought down by Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Zayne Anderson (23) as BYU hosts Utah State University at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Friday, Oct. 5, 2018.

Provo • Prior to the season, BYU senior defender Zayne Anderson talked about how eager he was to get back into live action after his 2018 season was cut short with a shoulder injury.

So far he is making the most of his opportunities, just not where it was originally thought he would be.

Anderson, penciled in as the Cougars’ “flash” linebacker for 2018, is now listed as the starting free safety, leaving sophomore Chaz Ah You starting at linebacker.

Junior Isaiah Kaufusi is the only other veteran linebacker with much experience, but the coaches feel like they need Anderson’s speed more at safety than linebacker.

“He is more of a hybrid safety,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “This gives him more opportunity to make plays and gives us a good rotation there.”

Either way, Anderson is just happy to be hitting again after missing much of the 2018 season with a right shoulder injury that had to be surgically repaired.

“Just getting another chance, knowing I was coming back for another year was a blessing,” he said. “I worked hard in the offseason and I knew I needed to do that to keep up with everyone.”


Vitals • 6-foot-2, 222 pounds, senior

Hometown • Stansbury Park, Utah

Position • Free safety

Of note • Played in only four games in 2018 after injuring his shoulder. He had a career high 12 tackles against Cal. … Started all games in 2017 at safety, finishing with 61 tackles, including 41 solo and had two interceptions. … Played in all games in 2016, mainly on special teams. … Played in eight games in 2015 before suffering a season-ending injury.

Switching back to safety has forced him to make some adjustments, but it hasn’t been that bad, he said.

“They are being patient with me and it’s good to learn something new again,” said Anderson, who has 10 tackles and a pass breakup on the season

He has also learned the hard way to take advantage of every chance he gets, because plans can change with just a tweak of a shoulder.

Anderson originally played safety in 2017, but he was switched to linebacker in 2018 to help fill the void created when Fred Warner moved on to the NFL following his senior year.

His stint at linebacker didn’t last long. He injured his shoulder in the first game of the season, then was sidelined for the season three games later.

Being unable to play was more of a test for the Stansbury Park product than any defense or position change.

“To watch from the sidelines was frustrating,” he said. “I went in with high expectations and was finally getting the hang of the new position and then things like the injury happen. Luckily I had a good support system and having another chance created another opportunity.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Linebacker Zayne Anderson sits for an interview during BYU football media day at the BYU Broadcasting Building in Provo on Tuesday, June 18, 2019.

As much as his talent is appreciated, Anderson’s value as a leader is just as important. There aren’t many seniors starting for the Cougar defense, so he is naturally looked to as a leader. It’s a role he embraces.

“I know I need to keep progressing as a leader, but I’ve learned from other guys,” he said. “Keeping guys accountable is a big thing.”

Anderson said the Cougars’ defense lacked chemistry in 2017 and it affected the team on the field. He doesn’t want that to happen this year.

“We have the leaders in this group to make it a great season,” he said. “It all comes down to chemistry and leadership and we have that this year.”


When • Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

TV • Ch. 4