BYU football: Eathyn Manumaleuna, Bronson Kaufusi expected to lead BYU's defensive line this fall
PROVO — Neither player sought the role they're expected to take on.
But entering BYU's fall camp, senior Eathyn Manumaleuna and sophomore Bronson Kaufusi find themselves as the default leaders along the Cougars' defensive line.
Manumaleuna, a player with vast experience who's entering his final season of college football, and Kaufusi, a player who shined last year as a true freshman after an LDS mission, are both expected to lead BYU's group of D-linemen this season.
“It’s crazy to think about it, but yeah, I’m one of two guys who played in most of the games last year returning, so I guess I’m a veteran,” Kaufusi said. “It’s a position I never thought I’d be in during just my second year, but I love it. I love having that responsibility as a leader.”
Kaufusi is a 6-foot-7, 270-pound defensive lineman who contributed immediately and often last season despite being just two weeks removed from his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the start of fall practices. The Timpview product tallied 23 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks while playing in all 13 games in 2012.
Odds are that his contribution will increase — maybe significantly — during his sophomore season.
Kaufusi enters fall camp better-conditioned, more agile and, most importantly, stronger than he was a year ago.
“Last year I just couldn’t go head to head against the bigger guys like I wanted,” Kaufusi said. “Every game I was going up against guys with denser muscle mass and it was frustrating and it was hard. I’ve worked hard all offseason to increase my strength and hopefully I’ll be able to make it work for me.”
His fellow defensive line leader believes he'll make it work.
“Bronson has it all. He’s an athletic freak — sort of like Ziggy (Ansah) was,” Manumaleuna said. “You hate to compare anyone to Ziggy and Bronson doesn’t need to be compared to anyone. He has his own set of skills and all he lacked last year was strength. He has that strength now and I think he’s going to have a big year for us.”
Kaufusi played alongside Ansah last season and took copious notes to help with his own development.
“When you see a guy who is athletically gifted as Ziggy give it his all on every play, that inspires you,” he said. “He obviously did things on the field that no one else could, but he always worked hard, always hustled, and that was a huge example for me and for all of us. Having that experience playing with Ziggy only helps me.”
Kaufusi is likely to start at one defensive end position and will likely be paired with Manumaleuna as the two primary linemen in coach Bronco Mendenhall’s 2-5-4 formation, which will likely be employed extensively.
As for Manumaleuna, he’ll play extensively at either defensive end or nose tackle, much like he has since his freshman year.
“Getting Eathyn back this year was huge for us,” said defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi. “He’s a guy I can put in anywhere in any situation and I trust him to get it done. He’s someone the younger guys can look to and see how it’s done.”
Manumaleuna has embraced his leadership role and seeks to help the incoming players make the type of immediate contribution he did when he was a freshman.
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