PROVO — A three-year starter in the defensive backfield, BYU senior Dayan Ghanwoloku is proven as both a safety and as a cornerback.
In 2018, coaches moved Ghanwoloku to safety and it appeared that he would remain at that position this season.
But now Ghanwoloku has been switched to corner.
“We always talk about it. Last year, I played safety all season and then in the bowl game I played corner,” he said. “If they need me there, I’ll go there and play. They feel like I can produce more at corner. I had five picks when I was a corner. So it’s a good position.”
“That’s what was best for the team. It’s a good problem to have,” safeties coach Preston Hadley said of Ghanwoloku's switch to corner. “We’ve got players who are versatile. We’re trying to find a way to get our best 11 on the field. We feel that involves having Dayan play corner.”
Ghanwoloku could still see playing time at safety.
“Last year he played safety and corner in some games,” Hadley said. “It all depends on the week and injuries that occur. There are different variables that would influence that.”
“You might see him at both, a little at corner and a little at safety. He’s a four-year starter,” said cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford. “He knows both positions. If we need him at safety, we’ll play him there. If we need him at corner, we’ll play him at corner as well. It’s nice to have a guy like that who’s been a starter for three years.”
Ghanwoloku’s move to corner has something to do with the status of Chris Wilcox, who started nine games last year, is still recovering from an injury while sophomore Keenan Ellis hasn't been practicing. Another potential contributor at corner, junior college transfer Eric Ellison, won’t join the program until December or January. And Dimitri Gallow, another JC transfer, still has not been admitted to school.
Those vying for that other cornerback spot include sophomore D’Angelo Mandell and redshirt freshman Isaiah Herron — both earned significant playing time last season.
“They took some lumps but they made some plays, too. For them, it’s about taking the next step,” Gilford said. “They had a good spring and good summer, changing their bodies and getting bigger, stronger and faster. Their confidence now is through the roof. They’re hungry. They both want it. Competition is a great thing. We have guys fighting for it.”
At the safety positions, senior Austin Lee will start at free safety while sophomore Malik Moore and senior Sawyer Powell are fighting for strong safety job.
“Both bring different skill sets to the table but they’re both assets to the team,” Hadley said. “They’re listed as co-starters.”
Senior safety Troy Warner is working through injuries.
“We’re bringing him back slowly. With a redshirt available, that could be something we’ll look towards,” Hadley said. “We don’t want to rush anything. His health is our priority. What’s best for him and the team is to focus on getting healthy and being another coach. He’s doing a great job so far.”
Other safeties in the group come from various backgrounds and other positions, such as senior Austin Kafentzis, a former quarterback and running back; and redshirt freshman Hayden Livingston, another former QB.
“There are other guys that have shown moments of greatness — Austin Kafentzis. His experience playing in different positions,” Hadley said. “A young guy that stood out is Hayden Livingston. He’s a former quarterback before his mission. He made the move to safety in the spring and you can see that he’s been working in the summer.”
Hadley likes the perspective Livingston brings to the secondary.
“His ability to dissect a play, he comes with a high football IQ. He can run, too. He was a track kid in high school. He’s physical by nature,” he said of Livingston. “Those are some of the qualities you’re looking for in your free safety. A guy who can cover, who can be physical and can understand route concepts and what an offense is trying to do. He’s got the formula to be a great safety someday.”
And there’s senior Beau Tanner, who has played receiver and cornerback and has left the program a couple of times before returning once again.
“Beau’s found his way to safety. That’s our group. We have former quarterbacks, former cornerbacks, former receivers, guys off the street coming in our room. We’ll coach you up the best we can,” Hadley said. “Beau, at this rate, as he keeps practicing, he’ll have some sort of role. He can run and he’s athletic. You can see moments and glimpses of great ability. He’ll help with depth. My hope is that he keeps moving up and getting involved in that position battle at strong safety.”
Hadley isn’t coaching Ghanwoloku anymore, but he does have plenty of players at his disposal.
“There’s strength in numbers,” Hadley said. “It could involve multiple guys playing different roles. Our goal is to develop depth.”