It's been a while since the days when Ezekiel Ansah had to first be shown how to put on his football pads. That was something even the no-nonsense and often stoic Coach Mendenhall once joked about. Long gone are the days when Ansah was a greenhorn learning the ropes as a football player.
"I felt that playing this past spring and working out hard over this past summer, to day three of fall camp, I would say I've grown a lot," Ansah said. "I wouldn't say that I'm quite there yet, but I'm trying to get better and better every day."
Having first tested the college football waters as a defensive tackle, the 6-foot-6-inch, 270-pound Ansah has indeed grown. But, it's not in the stature department where the most growing has occurred.
Having been moved to the Will linebacker spot last spring, Ansah's freakishly athletic ability is now molding into that of a more confident and knowledgeable football player. In fact, during the first three days of fall camp, Ansah has recorded sacks in every single team scrimmage to lead all outside linebackers in that category so far.
"I've had a sack every day, so I'm getting there."
When Ansah says he’s getting there, he understands there's more to just rushing the edge towards a quarterback.
"Getting there means being constant in every aspect of playing the position," said Ansah. "It's about always being at the right place and in the right position all the time. It's about knowing who to hit or tackle and what to do at specific times. I have to now just be consistent with everything the position requires of me."
Ansah has received additional instruction from projected starting Will linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
"During the drills when I make a mistake, Kyle for instance will come up to me and say, 'Do it this way and don't do it like this or like that,'" said Ansah. "When we watch film together he tries to help me out a lot, and I really appreciate that from him and learn from him."
While meeting with Coach Poppinga for a personal performance evaluation, Ansah received word on what Coach Poppinga is looking for from him.
"Learning from Coach Poppinga is really good," said Ansah. "When we have our one-on-one talks, he really likes me to talk about our flaws and things we need to improve on. One aspect Coach Poppinga wants me to improve on is my conditioning."
At 270 pounds, Ansah is very explosive off the edge, but Coach Poppinga wants him to increase his endurance level in order to be explosive for longer periods of time.
"I have to keep doing that every single day and be conditioned, so I can go hard every single play and not have a drop off in my performance," Ansah said. "I wouldn't say it's about strength or speed, but more about being able to increase and maintain my consistency at a high level.
"I would say I need to increase my endurance so I can perform at a high level longer. I think that's my biggest problem right now is my consistency, and I think that comes from conditioning. That's what I'm working on right now so I can be better at position mastery."
Ansah has been with the second-team defense behind Van Noy while Jameson Frazier is sidelined with a lower abdominal strain. Meanwhile, Jadon Wagner was at practice on Tuesday – although not suited up – and is also close to returning to the field. Despite the depth and talent at the Will position, Ansah has a personal goal for the upcoming season.
"My goal is to be on the field this year," Ansah said. "I just have to keep working harder and harder. I have to make good use of every rep that I'm able to take and try to do good. I wouldn't say I'm the best [at my position right now] but I'm getting better at it, and I'm going to keep getting better so I can reach my goals."
If Ansah continues to progress and is able to perform on a consistent basis, he'll be a force to be reckoned with. In the meantime, Ansah is progressing and showing he is capable of executing more of what the position requires, both against the pass and the run.