To get to know Detroit Lions first-round pick Ezekiel Ansah, a defensive end from BYU, I sent five questions to Zach Bloxham from Vanquish The Foe, SB Nation's Cougars blog. Here's a look at what he had to say about Ansah:
1. At this time a year ago, Ezekiel Ansah wasn't even on the radar for the NFL Draft, and he especially wasn't expected to be a top-five pick. Has his sudden rise been as surprising for BYU fans as it has for football fans in general?
This is an intriguing question given BYU's history (or lack thereof) of top-10 NFL talent. Where Ziggy Ansah's size, speed and potential may have gone unnoticed at similarly situated BCS programs, it made the Ghanaian stand out immensely in a place like Provo, Utah. I often thought he looked like a player who would play against BYU, not the other way around. Because of his uniqueness, Ziggy's potential has been something the people close to the program have watched with interest since his days of covering kickoffs in 2010. That he wasn't an unknown to BYU fans does not make his rise any less remarkable.
2. How did BYU use Ansah in its defense?
BYU runs a 3-4 scheme, and as such, requires a lot from its defensive linemen. In the beginning, Ansah was simply used as a defensive end. Not having played football until three years ago, Ansah's technique obviously led to strings of inconsistencies. He continued to progress, however, and by the latter part of 2012, Ansah was lining up at defensive end, nose tackle and outside linebacker. BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall mentioned in spring ball that Ansah was simply unblockable coming off the edge. Through hard work and coachability, Ansah was finally gelling his talent with his technique.
3. What would you say Ansah's top attribute is as a defensive end: his awareness, speed, ability to get to the opposing quarterback or something else?
It would be easy to say his combination of size and speed. The guy is simply a freak of nature in that department. An underrated portion of his game is his awareness and football IQ. Though he has only played the game for a few years, his learning grew exponentially over the time he played at BYU. Ansah is a really smart kid with a mind designed to pick up the schematics of the game. (He graduated with a degree in actuarial science and mathematics.) Here is a clip of this awareness. Watch him recognize and defend this screen pass during a game against Utah State -- a team that would finish the season in the top 25.
4. A big criticism of certain Lions defensive ends in the past has been their inability to stop the run. How did Ansah do against the run at BYU?
Because of BYU's scheme, Ansah played gap control more than man-on-man blocking schemes. That being said, his rush defense improved tremendously over the course of the year. He simply had a knack for getting off his block and making a play. BYU's rush defense was one of the tops in the country and it all started with the defensive line.
5. Just from watching his introductory press conference, it seems like Ansah is a good guy with a witty sense of humor. What should Lions fans expect from Ansah off the field?
Ezekiel Ansah is a humble, God-fearing and unique individual. Kyle Van Noy, a current BYU linebacker and preseason All-American, has said that when the team first saw Ziggy, they did not want to mock him for his lack of football prowess because he was too physically intimidating. This intimidation yielded to his affable character as soon as the team, fans and community heard one interview from Ansah. He expects nothing to be given to him and has earned every single thing he has attained. He is a character without guile. The Detroit Lions drafted not only a terrific football player but a gracious and humble human being.