This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
BYU's coaches learned a lot about their team in spring camp, which wrapped up more than a week ago with Alumni Day at the Indoor Practice Facility.
Particularly, the coaches discovered that they are fairly deep at the safety positions, despite the loss of big-time playmaker Kai Nacua.
Of course, returning starter Micah Hannemann seemingly has the strong safety spot nailed down. He started in 12 games last season and broke up five passes. He also made 28 tackles and had an interception.
Utah transfer Austin Lee, 2016 part-time starter Matt Hadley, juco transfer Marvin Hifo and junior BJ Fifita are Hannemann's backups.
At the free safety spot, Texas Tech transfer Tanner Jacobson and junior Zayne Anderson, a Stansbury Park product, are in a good battle to be the starter. Cornerback-turned-safety Kamel Greene and senior Sawyer Powell are also in the mix to get playing time.
"Right now, we feel really good with our safeties," head coach Kalani Sitake said. "There are a lot of guys [there] and we feel really comfortable with that position."
Jacobson was at strong safety at the start of spring camp, but was moved to free safety midway through. He said he played both at Texas Tech in 2013, before a church mission to Bolivia.
Jacobson, who is the younger brother by seven years of former BYU receiver McKay Jacobson, started in four games for the Red Raiders. He made 47 tackles his freshman year, including seven in the Holiday Bowl as Tech upset Arizona State.
At the end of his mission, he made the decision to transfer to BYU to be around like-minded players with similar life goals. He said he lost about 20 pounds on his mission, and has struggled a bit to get it back. Last year, Jacobson played in all 13 games, but made just eight tackles in a backup role.
He's looking to get on the field more in 2017.
"I just go out and play where ever they want me to play," he said. "I don't really worry about [playing time] too much. …Coach [Ed] Lamb likes to play a lot of safeties in the games. I think that is attributable to how deep we are at safety here. Last year we were deep and we should be this year. There are a lot of guys who will play who could start for other schools. A lot of guys at safety here can make plays. I think that has a lot to do with how comfortable coach Lamb feels with the group as a whole."
Lamb has said he's comfortable playing between 6-8 safeties on the roster, including Jacobson. And there's talk of moving sophomore cornerback Troy Warner to safety some day as the former four-star recruit's body develops and he gains weight.
As for Jacobson, who can also return punts and kickoffs if called upon, as he did in high school, he's not looking back at his decision to leave the Big 12 school for the college football independent.
"I love it here," he said last month. "I just passed a year since I've been here. So it has been a great experience in school, being with this coaching staff. I have really felt welcome here. I feel like a lot of guys are having fun playing here.
We are woking hard and getting better, but more than anything it has been fun. It's been a blast."
Finally, Jacobson said the athletes at BYU are just as good as those he played with at Texas Tech and played against in the Big 12.
"I think we can match up with anybody across the country," he said. "From my experience, we have a lot of size and we have a lot of speed. That is basically what you look for that determines the athleticism you have. I would say we match up really, really well. We are very comparable."