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Freshman safety Talan Alfrey adding value to BYU secondary

Cougars’ defensive back stepped in when starting free safety Malik Moore fractured his hand and hasn’t skipped a beat

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BYU defensive back Talan Alfrey (25) tackles Notre Dame running back Audric Estime Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, in Las Vegas.

BYU defensive back Talan Alfrey (25) tackles Notre Dame running back Audric Estime Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, in Las Vegas. The BYU redshirt freshman has filled in nicely at free safety for the Cougars this season.

John Locher, Associated Press

When BYU safety Talan Alfrey was in high school, he and a couple of buddies bought a piglet at an auction, raised it for a few months, then sold it for three times what they paid for it.

Did that launch a career as a pig farmer?

Hardly.

“The time we put in was not worth it, so we never did it again,” Alfrey said.

But the native of Auburn, Washington, learned a good lesson about the value of time, where he should focus his priorities, and how he can contribute to a winning football team.

“For him to come back after such a tough injury, for me that is inspiring. Every opportunity he gets, he has earned. So the sky is the limit for that guy.” — BYU linebacker Ben Bywater on Talan Alfrey

He got the first start of his college career at free safety a few weeks ago when senior Malik Moore sustained a hand injury, and immediately added value to the Cougars’ secondary. The redshirt freshman tied fellow safety Micah Harper with a team-high 10 tackles in BYU’s 38-26 win over the Aggies.

Alfrey had six tackles in his second start last week against Notre Dame, and is expected to start again Saturday when the 4-2 Cougars host 3-3 Arkansas at LaVell Edwards Stadium (1:30 p.m. MDT, ESPN).

“I think he has played really, really well,” BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said Tuesday. “Really impressed with his physicality, his willingness to tackle.”

Tuiaki said it has taken Alfrey some time to understand schemes and learn the system, but he is improving each game and making fewer mistakes.

“He’s a tremendous tackler with what he has brought,” Tuiaki said. “I thought this last game against Notre Dame he played well.”

Fourth-year sophomore Ben Bywater wasn’t real familiar with Alfrey and his game until the two defenders were randomly picked to be roommates at hotels the night before games.

“I am so happy for him. He’s been playing extremely well,” Bywater said. “Physical cat. He is back there making plays. So when he is in the game, I trust him. And he works hard. He takes care of his business. I respect that a bunch.”

Bywater said “everybody loves a good story,” and Alfrey has one after sustaining a season-ending Achilles injury last summer a few weeks before the season started.

“For him to come back after such a tough injury, for me that is inspiring,” Bywater said. “Every opportunity he gets, he has earned. So the sky is the limit for that guy.”

Alfrey said he injured his Achilles doing summer conditioning work a few weeks before fall camp in 2021, and it took him almost a year to recover, although he did appear in the bowl game last December. 

“There is still some explosiveness and speed I need to get back,” he said.

He got his first taste of action this season late in the 41-20 loss to Oregon, then played a little more when the Cougars beat Wyoming 38-24, the game in which Moore left with his hand injury. He was primarily a strong safety last year and in camp this year, but “the opportunity opened up at free safety and I switched over,” he said.

He had his “welcome to college football” moment after playing a little against Oregon at Autzen Stadium, and will never forget it.

“It kind of hit me after the game, just reflecting back and realizing, ‘Wow, I just played football for BYU,’” he said. “I was so grateful for that because it was an amazing opportunity and such an honor.”

After an outstanding three-sport career at Washington’s Mountainview High, Alfrey got offers from BYU, Air Force, Idaho and Nevada, and had interest from Utah and Boise State, before picking the Cougars. 

He served a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Uruguay and Fresno, California (after COVID-19 hit) and didn’t enroll at BYU until January 2021. 

Coaches raved about him during spring camp in March 2021, but the injury took him off the radar for a bit.

Earlier this year, he got married — his wife Katelyn is from northwest Colorado — and now he’s settled in and doing what he can to help the Cougars overcome their injury issues and beat Arkansas.

“I’m just trying to add value,” he said.

No matter how much time it takes.


Cougars on the air

Arkansas (3-3)

at No. 16 BYU (4-2)

Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT

LaVell Edwards Stadium

Provo, Utah

TV: ESPN

Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM