BYU COUGARS

How BYU Moves Forward Without Micah Harper At Safety

Aug 21, 2023, 1:47 PM | Updated: 5:29 pm

PROVO, Utah – One of the big questions for BYU as they wind down fall camp is how they will replace Micah Harper at strong safety.

The season-ending injury to the hard-hitting Harper is a big blow for a revamped BYU defense. Harper’s setback is the second season-ending injury for him in three seasons.

Despite losing one of their top defensive playmakers, BYU coach Kalani Sitake is optimistic that players will emerge.

“We have a bunch of guys that can play. That group was already deep from the beginning,” Sitake said. “But you’re going to see a bunch of those guys that probably will see if they can separate themselves between now and then. There’s not a lot of time left … but there’s a lot of talent there. I think there are four or five guys that can definitely replace him. It’s just a matter of who’s going to earn the one and two spots.”

Who could be those guys that see an elevated role due to Harper’s season-long absence?

BYU safety position after the loss of Micah Harper

The first choice could be redshirt sophomore Talan Alfrey. Alfrey started nine games and totaled 41 tackles and an interception last season in his first full year back to action after suffering an Achilles injury in 2021.

He was competing against graduate senior Malik Moore to be the starting free safety early in camp. Now Alfrey could be lining up alongside Moore, the assumed starter at free safety. Alfrey was the first-team strong safety in the first media observation practice after the Harper injury.

Since the injury to Harper took place, Alfrey has taken a team-first approach in his attempt to earn an expanded role in Jay Hill’s defense.

“All of us safeties come out trying to compete every day. As you know, there are only two safety spots on the field at a time,” Alfrey said to KSL Sports. “So out of the 12 of us that are in the safety group, we’re all competing, and everyone has the same goal to contribute to the team and contribute to the team’s success. That’s our goal to help the team win in whichever way we can.”

Position change?

Another option for BYU could be switching Weber State transfer Eddie Heckard over from cornerback to safety. Heckard was on the watch list for the Shrine Bowl 1000 list coming into the season as a potential safety to watch for the next level.

Safety might be where he plays in his pro career when evaluating Heckard’s pro potential. But then there would be a big void at cornerback as BYU looks to be an aggressive man-press team this season.

BYU could turn to JUCO transfer Jayden Dunlap, Weber State transfer Kamden Garrett, or Mory Bamaba if they switch Heckard to safety. Veteran Caleb Christensen could be an option at the nickel spot, a position Heckard also could occupy in this defense.

Another position change worth considering could be Ammon Hannemann. Hannemann switched to linebacker this season. Last year, he was the week-one starter at safety.

Jay Hill said in the spring that he felt Hannemann’s move to linebacker put him at his “home” spot that can best utilize his skill sets.

The rest of the BYU safety position

Other safeties to watch include Chika Ebunoha, Ethan Slade, Utah State transfer Crew Wakley, Preston Rex, and heralded freshman RM Raider Damuni.

Ebunoha is an athlete with a track and field background. He excelled in football and track during his prep career at Marana High School in Tucson, Arizona. His parents have athletic backgrounds as well, playing track and volleyball.

Ebuonha was one of BYU’s gunner’s on special teams last season. They opted only to play him four games to maintain his entire four years of eligibility. He’s got a chance to be a key factor for BYU at safety this season.

Raider Damuni was alongside Ebuonha during last week’s media observation portion in practice with the second unit at safety.

Ethan Slade had a few interceptions during spring practices back in April. The former Orem High DB has been a productive player in camp the past two seasons with the third or scout team defenses.

Preston Rex made a hard tackle on Enoch Nawahine during Saturday’s scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium. He appeared to be running with the third-team defense.

BYU wraps up fall camp officially on Tuesday, then shifts its attention to the season opener against Sam Houston on September 2.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on Twitter/X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

Take us with you wherever you go.

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

Are you on Threads yet? Let’s connect, give us a follow @kslsports.

  • BYU Cougars Scoreboard

  • BYU Cougars Team Leaders

  • BYU Cougars Standings

BYU Cougars

BYU Football, Isaiah Jatta, Colorado...

Mitch Harper

BYU Football Lands Colorado OL Transfer Isaiah Jatta

Isaiah Jatta committed to the BYU football program.

2 hours ago

baseball...

Brian Preece

Locals In MLB: Oliver Dunn Demoted, One Utahn Stands At MLB’s Highest Level

The Milwaukee Brewers have pulled the plug on the Oliver Dunn experiment, sending Dunn down after he struck out ten times in 24 May at-bats. 

3 days ago

BYU Football, 2024 Road Trips, Puka Nacua...

Mitch Harper

Ultimate BYU Football Trips For Fans During 2024 College, NFL Season

These football weekends are must-see for BYU football fans in 2024.

5 days ago

weber state basketball dillon jones...

Ben Anderson

Jaxson Robinson, Dillon Jones Wrap Up Combine Scrimmages

BYU wing Jaxson Robinson and Weber State forward Dillon Jones wrapped up scrimmage play at the NBA Draft Combine on Thursday.

5 days ago

BYU Women's Basketball, 2024-25 Roster, Amari Whiting...

Mitch Harper

Early Look At BYU Women’s Basketball Roster For 2024-25 Season

Year two for BYU women's basketball in the Big 12 Conference.

5 days ago

BYU Football, Greatest Players, All-Time...

Mitch Harper

BYU Football’s 100 Greatest Players Of All-Time: Nos. 26-50

Installment number three of the greatest players in BYU football history countdown.

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Give-A-Thon

The KSL Sports Zone, KSL 5 TV, FM100.3, 103.5 The Arrow, and KSL NewsRadio have teamed up to raise money for the kids being served by Primary Children’s Care!

ksl-sports-newsletter...

KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.

...

KSL Sports

Jazz Notes Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the Jazz Notes newsletter. Get insider analysis, game recaps and opportunities to win tickets!

Follow @kslsports...

The Road Home Mediathon 2023

The KSL Sports Zone and KSLSports.com are proud to support the all-day Mediathon 2023 at the Road Home, an annual tradition to raise money and other essential items for the Road Home, a Homeless Shelter.

3 kids wearing real salt lake jerseys smiling...

Real Salt Lake

6 Reasons You Need to Experience a RSL Matchday

RSL Games are a great way to spend time with your family with fun activities, good food, and traditions you can only experience at the field.

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.

How BYU Moves Forward Without Micah Harper At Safety