PROVO — Not long after football practice wrapped up last Monday night, BYU defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi turned on the television and watched the Cougar basketball team beat Stanford, 112-103.
While watching the game, Kaufusi noticed the new NCAA basketball rules changes aimed at increasing scoring and freedom of movement for offenses.
And he liked the way BYU played hard and played fast — just like the football team.
“There’s that new rule that I learned about, which is pretty interesting. Everyone has to get used to it," Kaufusi said. "The team’s great. They’re really athletic. They have guys like Kyle Collinsworth and Frank Bartley. A lot of athletic dudes, like Eric Mika. It’s nice to see them playing hard and playing fast and bringing it all together.”
Of course, Kaufusi has more than just a passing interest in the BYU hoops squad.
As soon as the Poinsettia Bowl ended last December, the 6-foot-7, 282-pounder from Provo joined the basketball team, providing the Cougars needed depth, strength and size in a reserve role.
Will there be a basketball encore this season for Kaufusi?
“I knew that question was coming," Kaufusi said, laughing. "It’s still football season. So we’ll wait until after. We’re all focused right now on football, especially me. I’m just waiting.”
In the meantime, Kaufusi, a starter at left end, will continue to help the football team in its final four games, including Saturday’s home finale against Idaho State (1 p.m. MST, BYUtv).
This season, the sophomore has recorded 27 tackles, including four tackles for loss, two sacks, five pass breakups, two quarterback hurries and one forced fumble.
“I’m definitely learning a lot,” Kaufusi said of his performance. “There have been some missed opportunities. There is a lot more that I can do to help out the team. I’ve just got to take care of it.”
As a whole, the defense can play better, Kaufusi said.
“We’re a good defense, but there’s a lot of room to improve. We’ve made some errors and given up some big plays because of that. I think we’ve progressed from the beginning (of the season), and we’re hoping to finish strong.”
Kaufusi said he’s learned a lot from BYU’s seniors — including defensive players like linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Uani Unga; defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna; and defensive backs Daniel Sorensen and Mike Hague — who will be playing their final home game Saturday.
“You have guys like Uani Unga, who’s a great leader, a middle linebacker that takes a lot of pounding," he said. "He’s always working hard. Everyone looks up to him. Danny Sorensen’s a great safety, really vocal on the field. Guys like that we’re going to miss. And Eathyn, of course. Everyone looks up to him because he’s been here a long time and he knows exactly what he’s doing. He understands the defense. Those guys are unbelievable. It’s really nice to play with them.”
Because it’s the final home game for BYU’s 22 seniors, there is added motivation Saturday.
“For the rest of the season, really,” Kaufusi said. “It’s the last home game and we want to make it a good one.”
And once football season is over, it wouldn't be surprising to see Kaufusi make the transition again from the football field to the basketball court.
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