Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah benefitting from the versatile role he held at BYU

Posted Jun 13, 2013

The fact that Ansah played three positions (linebacker, defensive end and defensive tackle) at BYU is helping him pick up different concepts of the Lions' defense faster

Coaches can only tell so much about a player in shorts and helmets, but Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham says first-round pick Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah is showing him the same kind of feel for the game he did during the week he coached him at the Senior Bowl.

Ziggy AnsahDE Ziggy Ansah (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

It was that week down in Mobile in late January that ultimately sold the Lions on the athletic defensive end.

"(BYU) asked him to do more things than any college player I've ever seen I think in that position," said Cunningham. "He played every position up front and he is very aware of football. I don't know how he learned all those things that quickly."

The Lions scheme up front isn't extraordinarily complicated -- get up field and get after the quarterback. The part of the game Ansah is working to pick up is blitz concepts in zone drops and man coverage and pickups. Ansah has only been playing football since 2010, but the fact that he played three positions (linebacker, defensive end and defensive tackle) at BYU is actually helping him pick up different concepts faster.

"Obviously, if you just have one thing to focus on it makes it a lot easier," Ansah said. "This is what you have to do, this is what you have to learn, it's way easier than trying to learn the whole defense."

The Lions are figuring out that Ansah is a fast learner when he is able to focus on just one position.

"We put him in one spot (at the Senior Bowl) and let him play and (defensive line coach) Kris (Kocurek) and I were laughing in the fourth quarter because Kris told me he's going to be the MVP," Cunningham said.

"I said, 'Well, he's probably our whole team.' I mean, he made I don't know how many tackles, had sacks, knocked the ball down, covered kicks, punts and kickoffs. He does it all."

The key now is transitioning what he's learned in the offseason training program and mini-camp into a training camp setting, when the pads come on and Ansah is competing for a starting spot – mainly against experienced veteran Willie Young.

"You know, the upside of Ziggy Ansah is his character," Cunningham said. "There is no doubt in my mind about that. Those kids that come over like he does, they're on a mission. It's not just, 'Well, you know, I get a chance to play in the NFL.' He made a path to go to the NFL and he worked hard to get here.

"He has tremendous physical talents. He ran 21-something (200 meters) at 260 pounds. That's pretty hard to do. I know a little bit about track. He ran the 100-meter in under 10.8, 10.7, something like that. So, he can do those things. What we need to do is get into preseason and find out."