PROVO — Trying to figure out what position senior Bronson Kaufusi will play this fall on BYU’s defense is hard to nail down.
During spring practices, Kaufusi has been lining up at defensive end, and working out with the defensive linemen. But at times, he drops back into coverage like a linebacker.
On the official roster, Kaufusi is listed as a linebacker.
So, what role does Kaufusi see himself playing?
“Really, whatever (the coaches) want,” said the 6-foot-7, 265-pounder from Provo. “If they want me to drop, I’ll drop. If they want me to rush, I’ll rush. I’m definitely more comfortable rushing. That’s what I want to be doing. I feel like there will be a lot more rushing than dropping into coverage this year. I’m just excited to help any way I’d definitely call myself a defensive end, but at the same time, a D-end that drops.”
During spring ball last year, BYU coaches moved Kaufusi from the defensive line to outside linebacker, essentially replacing the void left by star Kyle Van Noy, who became a second-round pick of the Detroit Lions in the NFL draft.
Cougar coaches figured Kaufusi could disrupt opposing teams’ offenses like Voy Noy did.
Kaufusi battled injuries last year and many wondered if he should be back on the defensive line rather than on the outside.
Late in the season, Kaufusi played more at defensive end, and his production went up.
In 10 games, Kaufusi recorded 43 tackles (34 unassisted), a team-high 11.5 tackles-for-loss, a team-high seven sacks, six pass breakups, a team-high seven quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.
When asked about Kaufusi’s role on the defense, coach Bronco Mendenhall said it’s too early to answer that question.
“To be determined. Bronson’s role will be based on what and when I find 10 other players that will try really hard and know what to do and can make a play,” Mendenhall said. “That will determine where he plays. Spring is a launch point. Right now, I’m determining who’s trustworthy, who’ll try hard enough for me to even consider them. He’s one of them, I know. I don’t know where I’m going to play him, though.”
Outside linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga is planning to have Kaufusi lined up at linebacker every once in a while.
“Bronson will still be playing outside ‘backer in certain situations. For right now, we need depth during spring,” Poppinga said. “He will still play, like he did at the end of last season, moving from outside linebacker to the defensive line, moving back and forth, really depending upon the personnel that the offense has in the game. He’s our hybrid guy. It makes us more versatile as a defense.”
To play linebacker last year, Kaufusi lost some weight to make him quicker and sleeker. He said he dropped down to 258 pounds last season and is now back to 265.
As a senior, Kaufusi is looking to not only anchor the defense, but to be a leader.
“As a leader of the team, you have to catch the vision of what the head coach wants, what the assistant coaches want, what the program is headed to,” Kaufusi said. “A bunch of the seniors really stepped up their game and I know that vision. We all know what we want going forward, especially out of this spring ball, to help our team take steps forward We need to motivate guys to work hard day in, day out. Every day, you have to bring your best to the table. When guys do that, that’s when you start to see the steps move forward.”