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BYU football: Defense starting to shape up after scrimmage

Published: Thursday, Aug. 16 2012 8:49 p.m. MDT

BYU's Craig Bills (20) is at the center of a group of players during Thursday's practice.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

PROVO — The Cougar defenders had their work cut out for them during Thursday's scrimmage — particularly the defensive line. With every assumed starter on defense sitting out, the offense included many starters and all of its assumed starters along the offensive front.

The result was a very productive running attack and five touchdowns yielded. It was a result expected, but not discouraging for defensive coaches.

"It's tough going against our offensive front when we have all the starters in there, but I think my guys did OK," said defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi. "I've liked their progress through camp and think we're building some good depth, but we still have some work to do."

Kaufusi is blessed this season with four senior defensive linemen (Eathyn Manumaleuna, Romney Fuga, Ian Dulan, and Russell Tialavea) who have each played significant roles since their freshmen years.

Given the nature of defensive line play, depth is needed with coaches homing in on who will supply that depth. Mendenhall mentioned after the scrimmage that Mike Muehlmann and Remington Peck are likely the fifth and sixth defensive linemen on this stage. Another defensive end, who Kaufusi knows very well, is knocking at the door, however.

Bronson Kaufusi is just over three months removed from his mission service to New Zealand and looking good.

"We're monitoring how many reps he takes with him still having those missionary legs, but he's done well," said Steve, Bronson's father. "You need time to recover when you're not used to being out there, so we're being careful with him. I'm not sure if we'll use him and how much yet, but he's getting there."

Bronson signed with BYU as one of the top defensive end recruits in the country after playing for Timpview High.

Depth at nose tackle is more of a concern than at defensive end according to Steve. Junior college transfer Marques Johnson is yet to practice this fall, but hopes to contribute this season along with converted offensive lineman Tui Crichton.

"We need those guys or someone else to rotate with Romney (Fuga) at nose, but even though Russell (Tialavea) has lost so much weight, we could use him there in spots along with Eathyn (Manumaleuna)", said Steve.

HELP FROM LITTLE BROTHER: Former Utah defensive lineman Jason Kaufusi joined BYU's staff as a graduate assistant and is helping his older brother Steve in coaching up the defensive line.

Even though Steve is 13 years Jason's senior, he's willing to take whatever advice little brother lends his way.

"No coach out there knows everything, so we're always looking for pointers here and there and help and Jason — he knows the position and it's great having him help out this year," said Steve. "It's a huge blessing for me to be able to coach with my brother and to coach one of my sons. Jason is adding a lot to the position."

KICKING CONUNDRUM: With two weeks of fall practices gone, kicker Justin Sorensen has yet to attempt a single field goal during practice due to a bad back. Despite that, coach Bronco Mendenhall is still holding out hope he'll kick this season, but is growing wary.

"Every day that he doesn't kick adds increasing concern," said Mendenhall.

"I don't have a certain number of days he needs to be kicking it through the uprights — I don't have anything scientific at this point other than if he can kick and if he's accurate."

If Sorensen can't go, the team will go with punter Riley Stephenson as its primary kicker.

"We'll have to do some more work on identifying exactly where his range is," said Mendenhall about Stephenson. "We're still holding out for (Sorensen), but it's not like Riley (Stephenson) will be punting only until then."

email: bgurney@desnews.com

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