It's tough learning a sport from scratch, but to learn it and execute it at a Division I level against those that have more experience and training is even tougher. Still, Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah feels he's moving right along.
"I think I'm catching up a little bit," said Ansah, who played football for the first time last season as a sophomore. "Playing my new position is not as difficult as playing on the d-line and I like it much better."
Interestingly enough, the move from defensive lineman to linebacker has made playing the sport of football much easier for Ansah.
"I thought it was going to be difficult at first when they put in all the plays," he said. "On the Will coverages, it's pretty much the same and there's not many differences in it. All you have to do is study the calls and then you'll be okay with the coverages and the blitzes. I like it a lot better."
From the boundary side defensive end position, Ansah learned the containment coverages and blitzes. Once he grasped the concepts, the coaches eased him to his more natural position of Will linebacker.
"I think the coaches know what's best for me and that's why they put me there," Ansah said. "I think the position fits me better. I can use my speed more and I think that's what the coaches want more from me. They know what they are doing and what is best for me."
"Ziggy, yeah, Ziggy is doing good," said fellow outside linebacker Jameson Frazier with a smile. "He's learning and knows what he's doing out there. He's just learning how it is to be a linebacker and is doing great."
Ansah now is able to better utilize his athleticism and speed, having grasped the boundary side responsibilities.
"I think it fits me and what I can do a lot better," said Ansah. "I get to be a part of the coverage and all that. I get to use more of my athleticism now instead of just going up against all these big people. I think one reason why they put me there is because they want me to rush in on the quarterback, and that's what I'm working on."
Ansah has all the natural ability to play and succeed on the field, but it's all up to him whether or not it all comes to fruition.
"Coach Poppinga always says, 'If you want it, then I'll help you get it,'" Ansah said. "I think I should put in more effort and show him that I really want to do well and do what he expects me to do. I want to be able to get to where he wants me to be so I can play. I’m working on it. I want to do it."
Coach Popping is just one of the people that have made being at BYU a great experience for Ansah.
"I really like being here at BYU and there's a lot of good people," he said. "It's not just about football and also about how to be a man. The coaches always try to help you be better in school, the gospel and live better every day in your social life. It's not just about football. I really like Coach Poppinga because he's a very emotional guy. He really loves the position he used to play and he wants us to be better than he was. He's really into us and helps us a lot. I really appreciate all that he is doing for me right now."
Not only is Coach Poppinga in Asah's corner, but Ansah also has a good supporting cast around him that's willing to help him progress as well.
"I really like the outside linebackers and we're all like brothers," Ansah said with a smile. "If you need help, Jameson [Frazier] will help, Kyle [Van Noy] helps, and everybody helps me. I really appreciate what they do for me. They are like my brothers and really try to help me."
"I think me being a walk-on, I can relate to these guys coming in being new, not knowing anything," Frazier said. "I kind of feel for them and I want to help them out as much as I can, and so I think everyone has that similar mindset where they want to compete and do good but they also want everyone else around them to get good too. If you're the best and no one else around you is any good, what good does that do? It doesn't make the team good, so I think everyone is invested in the team and helping one another in their positions, and that means we have to do everything we can to help Ziggy as well."
In the meantime, Ansah will continue to compete and develop within his new position. Time will tell if he develops to the point where he can be trusted on the field. However, there is at least one area where Cougar fans will see Ansah on the playing field this season.
"I think you'll still see me on the special teams and I'm not going to take any chances with that one," Ansah said. "I want to play at both positions, and so I want to get my spot on special teams. I can't let that slip away, so you'll see me there again."