Kaufusi looking to thrive at new position

As Kyle Van Noy gets ready for his next show on the NFL stage, his vacated outside linebacker position at BYU is going through some changes as well. A trimmed down Bronson Kaufusi has traded his defensive line position for Van Noy's old spot on BYU's defense, and he couldn't be more excited about it.

Playing on the defensive line at 6 feet 7 inches can be a difficult thing to do, especially when that defense runs a 3-4 two-gap system where defensive linemen are expected to take on two offensive linemen at a time. Although Bronson Kaufusi played in the trenches most of the time last season, he did see some outside linebacker play in specific down-and-distance situations.

"I played a little bit of it during our nickel package in third down, but I really found out about it after our bowl game, about two weeks after," said Kaufusi about playing outside linebacker. "I was excited about it because it's going to fit me better."

So, it's not like he's getting his feet wet for the first time as he now plays the Will side linebacker position. However, learning all the nuances, tendencies, and plays on every down and distance at that position will be a work in progress for him.

"Yeah, I love it!" he said. "I mean, it's new just being able to learn the coverages and all the things I have to do. Other than that, I love it – being able to cover in space and use my range that I have."

So what's the toughest part about the position change?

"Probably the biggest challenge for me is learning the coverages, knowing my job, and being able to do it in a way that is dominant. Just learning it is the hardest thing to do."

Having played next to Van Noy, Kaufusi feels he has a great standard and example on how to play his new position. Kaufusi will be spending a lot of time watching film on Van Noy so he can better understand what made him so effective.

"Oh yeah, Kyle, he did so many things so good, and, you know, I feel like one thing he did really good is he's got his instincts down," Kaufusi said. "He's got good instincts to the ball, so watching him drop, he drops to the spot, then makes plays."

Following the end of last season, there was a need for more middle linebackers, so some of the smaller outside linebackers were moved to the middle. And with good depth along the defensive line, Kaufusi's switch to outside linebacker will allow for true 3-4 defensive tackle body types to fill the ranks.

"Yeah, there's a lot more defensive linemen, and I'll be able to use my skill set in that spot [at outside linebacker]," Kaufusi said.

However, that means he'll have to slim down rather than force feed himself in order to be a 300-pound defensive lineman. Coach Mendenhall loves the idea of a trimmed-down Bronson Kaufusi rushing off the edge or dropping back into coverage.

"Skinny Bronson, I like him," said Coach Mendenhall. "When you look to throw the ball to wherever he is – standing back where I was at with the quarterback – you don't see much on the other side of skinny Bronson when you think wingspan and etc."

Last season, Kaufusi weighed about 285 pounds. Now, he's dropped some weight to get to where he is now: "skinny Bronson."

"Well, I'm 6'7" and I don't weigh 300 pounds or plus," Kaufusi said with a laugh. "I dropped about 25 pounds to play. I was like 285 and I'm about 260 or 265. Being able to play that edge is like playing in that 4-3 defense and that's what I played in high school. I like it a lot more because you're a lot more aggressive."

He feels his current weight is more of a natural playing weight for himself, given his metabolism. By the time Kaufusi gets to fall camp, he hopes to have lost even more weight if needed.

"I'm more comfortable right here at 265," Kaufusi said. "I mean, I really had to eat so much and just do a ton of dieting to get up there and a lot of lifting. I really just got smarter, not eating as much. I just kind of took to it."

Changing positions means he's no longer being coached by his father, defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi. But apparently, his father loves the idea of his son changing positions to better suit his skill sets.

"Oh, he was excited!" the younger Kaufusi said about his father. "He feels like that's definitely a position – at least in this defense – it's something that I can definitely do."

His new position coach is now Coach Poppinga. The two will become very acquainted over the next two years as Coach Poppinga tries to get his new protégé up to speed with Van Noy-like fashion.

"Oh, it's great and I love Coach Poppinga," Kaufusi said. "He's an awesome coach."

However, when it comes to choosing which coach he loves the most, his father Steve just squeaked by due to family loyalty.

"Family first!" Kaufusi said with a laugh. "I love them both. They're both great coaches."

It was the obvious choice. But with all joking aside, Bronson Kaufusi will have a big challenge on his shoulders. Nevertheless, he has some great range and skill sets that suit the position well, given he is more of a true edge rusher than a gap-stuffer.

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