The see-saw effect.
You want offenses and defenses to have respective wins in spring practice, and BYU is getting that, an ebb and flow, back and forth battle. On Wednesday, it was the offense’s turn.
“You want to win spring, but you want both sides to have their days,” said receiver coach Fesi Sitake of the 11-on-11 team session that included running back Kavika Fonua being carted off the field with a foot injury in a physical session.
Squally Canada ripped off an 80-yard touchdown run, Talon Shumway scored on a 60-yard catch and run, receiver Neil Pau’u had a huge catch and gain, and Riley Burt ran for a score that looked like 20 yards plus. Ditto for Brayden El Bakri on a pass play. All came against the second and third team reserves. Some key defenders like linebacker Butch Pau’u were held out.
“I’m so sad right now,” said Butch Pau’u. “It was a bad day for the defense today. There was a lot of lack of effort and missed assignments and getting to know the playbook. The coaches keep putting an emphasis learning the plays and we still don’t know the plays from day one, so I was kind of disappointed.”
Pau’u said players have to take care of assignments individually.
Head coach Kalani Sitake called the session a good day with live contact of 50 or 60 snaps. “The offense had some really big plays early and we did some red zone work, which was good, and we made all our field goals and extra points, so I’m pleased.”
Of the big plays, Sitake credited the quarterbacks, and he said missed assignments were due to putting in some new assignments. “But there are no excuses. We held out some guys, but that usually doesn’t happen with our defense.”
The defense did have its moments.
One of those came on a blind-side sack of freshman Zach Wilson by left defensive end Devin Kaufusi, who knocked Wilson to the turf with a teeth-rattling hit. He had another play in which he got a rush sack with an early whistle, showing very good speed for a freshman just off missionary service.
Wilson shook off the injury and had his first post-practice interview of his college career with reporters. “I think it’s great” to go live, said Wilson. “In high school, I had no problem lowering my shoulder at a linebacker, but here you learn quickly to slide.”
Devin Kaufusi is the latest Kaufusi to show up for BYU, with older brother Corbin playing defensive end and eldest brother Bronson Kaufusi on the roster of the Baltimore Ravens. Their father Steve and his brothers Rich, Jeff and Jason had sterling collegiate careers as defensive linemen.
Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said 6-foot-7, 250-pound Devin isn’t a surprise if you consider the athleticism of his older brothers and that he’s the son of Steve and Michelle Kaufusi.
“Devin is a very good player, no surprise,” said Tuiaki. “Everyone is a developmental guy, right? But it is really all about standards, and when Devin came out of high school there was a question because he wasn’t the starter (at Timpview High) when the offer was taken. “
But Devin met some standards for size, speed, frame and measurables Tuiaki wanted in prospects.
“I didn’t coach Bronson but I’ve been around Corbin and I’ve heard them all talk. They say Devin might just be the best of all of them because he’s got five years to play. We plan on using him. He has to beef up a bit but we’re excited about him. He’s a Kaufusi.”
The live hitting Sitake features in spring is by design. That players get hurt is not a disaster. “It’s football and we have to get people ready,” said Sitake. “It’s a sacrifice we have to make. It’s a physical game and guys will get hurt. But what we can’t have is not being ready for the games in the fall.”
Tight end coach Steve Clark, who lost freshman Joe Tukuafu to a broken hand, said hitting live is primarily for the defense and to see who can tackle. Also, it shows how offensive players react in protecting the ball going to the ground, and it is a good way to train quarterbacks in the heat of battle.
“You have to do it to know who can do it,” said Clark. “A quarterback can do it in seven-on-seven, but put a rush on him and he loses his eyes. You have to know. You have to know who can handle it.”
On this day, defenders had their moments, but the offense earned bragging rights.