Breaking Down BYU Football’s Safety Position Entering Fall Camp

Jul 28, 2022, 6:22 PM | Updated: Jul 30, 2022, 7:34 pm
BYU Football, Malik Moore...
BYU football senior Malik Moore leads the Cougars safety room entering the 2022 season. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – The BYU football fall camp position preview series takes us to the safety spot.

One of the leaders of the defense resides here at the safety position. That’s Malik Moore.

After only appearing in five games in 2020, Moore had a breakout season last year and was a key piece to the defense.

Moore represents the best best for a star to emerge at this position that has always had star power for BYU over the last four decades. From Kyle Morrell, Derwin Gray, Chris Ellison, Jared Lee, Aaron Francisco, Andrew Rich, Daniel Sorensen, and Kai Nacua, BYU has always had some quality safeties.

Moore could be the next star if he has a big year.

Along with Moore, there are a bunch of players who have played in games, but which ones will rise to the top to round out the depth chart? That will be a storyline to watch as camp begins next week.

Here’s a breakdown of the personnel and other storylines for BYU’s 2022 safety position.

Safety personnel for BYU football in 2022

Returning Starter: Malik Moore (Grad-Sr.)

Departed from last season: Jason Money, Mitchell Price

Returning players with starting experience: Jacob Boren (Jr.), Matthew Criddle (Grad-Sr.), Ammon Hannemann (RS-Soph.), Hayden Livingston (RS-Jr.), George Udo (Jr.), Jakob Robinson (Soph.)

Returning: Talan Alfrey (RS-Fr.), Javelle Brown (RS-Soph.), Micah Harper (RS-Fr.), Dean Jones (RS-Fr.), Ethan Slade (RS-Fr.)

Newcomers that participated in spring: Isaiah Glasker (Fr.), Carter Krupp (Fr.)

Summer arrivals: Chika Ebunoha (Fr.)

Outlook entering Camp Kalani

Graduate senior Malik Moore leads the safety position for BYU football in 2022 at free safety. Moore was number one on BYU’s defense last season in total snaps played with 708. Moore is one of the few mainstays that rarely leaves the field in a defense that is comfortable rotating personnel.

When he arrived at BYU, Moore was a development defensive back after a prep career that saw him play wide receiver. Last year was a breakout season for Moore as he recorded three interceptions and 32 tackles. The high level of play even earned him NIL deals with his favorite fast food chains.

This year, Moore is looking to improve his tackling ability and execute the playbook at an in-depth level.

Next to him at strong safety is most likely Ammon Hannemann. Hannemann started in four games last year while playing in 10 games total.

The younger brother to former BYU defensive back Micah Hannemann, like his older brother, Ammon, is a good athlete. He has the trust of safety coach Ed Lamb. Hannemann checks in as the starter entering camp.

Keep an eye out for Talan Alfrey. There was a lot of buzz on him coming out of spring practices in 2021, but he had a season-ending Achilles injury that sidelined him last season.

He’s healthy now and will be in the mix to push Hannemann.

Another option is a versatile defensive back also coming back from an injury in Micah Harper. Harper started in five games at cornerback during the 2020 season. He missed all of 2021 due to an injury suffered in spring practices last year.

When he signed with BYU, head coach Kalani Sitake drew comparisons to former BYU star Dayan Lake for how Harper can play both corner and safety at a high level.

Throughout all of the spring practices, Harper was lining up at safety. Coaches envision the safety spot can be where he maximizes his potential the most. At 5-foot-10, 185-pounds, Harper is one of the hardest hitters on the team. As a result, he will see a lot of playing time.

2022 BYU football fall camp position previews

Along with the traditional safety spots, BYU has designations for nickel back and the CINCO position.

Last year, Jakob Robinson flourished at nickel as a freshman transfer from Utah State. He took a lot of reps in spring ball at cornerback. Still, suppose some newcomers like Vanderbilt’s Gabe Jeudy-Lally and Tulsa, Oklahoma native Korbyn Green make an immediate impact as they are expected to provide at the corner. In that case, it could allow Robinson back at nickel full-time.

Last season, Robinson earned Freshman All-American recognition from that spot.

It’s a similar story for Caleb Christensen to Robinson. He could play cornerback if needed but also has had success at Nickel or the Cinco spots.

Jacob Boren saw action in 12 games last season and got a start against Washington State. Boren is a former walk-on tryout to the program and is one of BYU’s fastest players. During spring practice, he took a lot of reps at cornerback.

Hayden Livingston started one game in his BYU career back in 2019 against Utah in the opener.

Chaz Ah You was a player that had a lot of success in the early weeks of the season last year at safety before suddenly being switched to linebacker. He’s added weight this off-season and appears to be a full-time option at linebacker going forward.

Competition to watch

The battle at strong safety between Ammon Hannemann, Micah Harper, and Talan Alfrey should be fun to watch. But again, Hannemann likely comes out of camp as the winner because of his experience.

Don’t be surprised if all three players get snaps often in games. BYU played a lot of 4-2-5 in spring. So it’s not unreasonable to assume there will be opportunities for many defensive backs to get playing time depending on the opponent.

Outside the box storyline for BYU football safeties

What can we expect from George Udo?

In 2020, Udo had a breakout year racking up 25 tackles and three sacks. He suffered an injury late in that season.

Last year, he only appeared in five games and didn’t come close to his impact in 2020. Udo is a versatile athlete that could play linebacker or cornerback if there was too much of a logjam at safety.

It will be interesting to see where Udo fits in BYU’s personnel picture coming out of Camp Kalani.

Underclassmen to follow

Watching Isaiah Glasker line up at safety is a sight to see. At 6-foot-5, Glasker is one of the bigger safeties I’ve ever seen in the backend of a BYU defense. After serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Glasker enrolled this past January and participated in spring ball.

BYU has a pair of intriguing preferred walk-ons that could turn into valuable prospects down the road in Carter Krupp and Chika Ebunoha.

Krupp hails from the same hometown as former BYU star QB Robbie Bosco in Roseville, California. He had a 33-inch vertical coming out of high school and was an all-around athlete.

Ebunoha is from Tucson, Arizona, and reportedly has run a 4.4 40-yard dash during his prep career.

Ethan Slade from Orem High School had a pair of interceptions in a fall camp scrimmage last season.

Projected Depth Chart entering Fall Camp

Free Safety: Malik Moore (6-1, 190), Hayden Livingston (6-1, 200), Ethan Slade (6-0, 190)

Strong Safety: Ammon Hannemann (6-1, 200), Micah Harper (5-10, 185) -OR- Talan Alfrey (6-3, 205), Isaiah Glasker (6-5, 205)

NICKEL: Jakob Robinson (5-11, 165), Caleb Christensen (5-10, 195), Jacob Boren (5-9, 180)

CINCO: George Udo (6-1, 200), Matt Criddle (6-1, 195)

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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