"The one thing that's good is we have depth, so we can get through nine guys rotating," said Coach Kaufusi. "That's always the thing in the past is just having enough guys to rotate, so we'll have new guys step up and a couple guys with last year's experience. We've got guys that redshirted and four guys that got off their missions with Travis [Tuiloma] and Graham [Rowley]."
The group is mix of experienced and inexperienced players. The more notable one Coach Kaufusi has to work with are 6-foot-5-inch, 296-pound Josh Carter (who made the switch from the offensive line), 6-foot-2-inch, 308-pound Marques Johnson (who is currently rehabbing a leg injury), 6-foot-2-inch, 252-pound Theodore King, 6-foot-3-inch, 270-pound Tomasi Laulile, 6-foot-4-inch, 250-pound Remington Peck (who started last year), and 6-foot-4-inch, 330-pound JonRyheem Peoples.
Those recently coming off missions that will contribute this season are 6-foot-4-inch, 270-pound Graham Rowley, 6-foot-1-inch, 285-pound Kesni Tausinga, and 6-foot-2-inch, 270-pound Travis Tuiloma.
"Yeah, they're all a good group of guys, but you have to coach them up," said Coach Kaufusi. "You gotta go to work and coach them up because we have to find guys that will go to battle, you know, go to war with you this season coming up. I'm happy we have bodies. I'm happy that we have depth. We'll find the right guys. So there's a lot of work to find and see who's resilient, who can play the run, and all that kind of stuff. We'll find it. It's just we have enough guys to find those guys."
Early on in spring camp, there has been a lot of rotation among the defensive linemen to find out who among this group will go to battle this season. Everyone has had an equal amount of reps to prove themselves and show what they've got.
"Well, we have three groups," said Kaufusi. "We just rotate them. There's no such thing as a starter right now. It's just rotating those guys to make sure everybody is getting the same amount of reps, so they can look at themselves on film and get things corrected and point things out. So, we're just rotating, so I don't who the guys are going to be. I'm excited and it will happen."
While there is a rotation of equal opportunity, the first group to take the field consists of left defensive tackle Graham Rowley, nose guard Travis Tuiloma, and right defensive tackle Remington Peck.
"They're weak, they're weak, but like I said, I have to start somewhere," said Kaufusi. "But I only let them go three reps, then I rotate [Tuiloma and Rowley] because I don't want to get them hurt. I have to remind myself that they just got off their mission, so there's a lot of new guys."
There are a couple of notable players in the program that have been sort of quiet in the early period of spring camp. One is JonRyheem Peoples, who was highly touted when he came to BYU.
"Well, you know, Jon's been sick so he missed a lot of offseason workouts, so he's got to prove himself," said Coach Kaufusi. "He thinks he's the guy so, hey, show us then, you know. He's got potential and he can help us. So right now, because he's been sick, he's just getting out there and getting to running around. I'm anxious to get the pads on them and see how consistent they've been. There's a lot of fundamentals to learn."
Peoples suffered a bout of tonsillitis, and after having the tonsils removed, he had to go back in for more surgery to stop some bleeding.
"It bled a little bit and it delayed a little bit and it delayed everything because they had to go back in and that kind of stuff," said Coach Kaufusi. "Now that he's back I have to throw him in the fire, and at the same time condition him, so there's no better place to learn but just throw him in there. I just have to watch his reps and make sure he's not overdoing it so he doesn't get hurt."
Peoples will compete at the nose guard position against Marques Johnson and Travis Tuiloma, but he has a lot catching up to do in the weight room and on the practice field.
"He's a nose guard and he can't play out on the four [or defensive tackle]," said Coach Kaufusi. "He thinks he can, but he can't. He missed a lot of workouts. He missed a good month and a half of workouts because he had surgery."
Prior to leaving on his mission, Travis Tuiloma was one of the strongest players on the team. Like many linemen who chose to serve, he lost a lot of that strength. He also lost a lot of something else as well.
"Travis lost a lot of weight on his mission, you know," said Coach Kaufusi. "He's probably around 275 now, so he's lighter. He was up at around 320 [before his mission]. I was worried about him going to Samoa too, you know, because he was going to Samoa and I thought he would put more weight on. They must have made him walk a lot, and he probably didn't get a lot to eat when he was out there, but it's okay and we'll cross-train him a little bit on the four technique [defensive tackle spot] because he's playing the nose spot because it comes easy for him."
Highly recruited out of Hawaii, Graham Rowley was considered one of the top linemen nationally in the 2010 recruiting class. Much like Tuiloma, Rowley is coming off of a mission and Coach Kaufusi will now have the task of getting both back up to pre-mission status.
"He looks lean," said Kaufusi. "Graham served out there in Chicago and you lose strength when you go, you know, which is great ‘cause you just focus on the mission and do a great job. Yeah, it's just time, work, put the time in, repetition, reps, reps, reps. It's fun to teach them and then let them loose.
"They'll have to work out and have a great offseason, so it will come down to that. It will come down to conditioning, endurance and doing what it takes to gain a little bit of that strength. It will come down to that."
Coach Kaufusi mentioned that sophomore Tomasi Lualile will also be in the mix this year. Meanwhile, Kesni Tausinga, whom Coach Mendenhall singled out after the first day of spring camp, should also be in the mix despite just returning from a mission as well.
"Yeah, [Laulile] can help us too," said Coach Kaufusi. "Kesni can help us too. He can definitely help us. You know, he's never been here before, so he's coming off a mission, but I know he can help us next year."
As for the 2014 recruiting class, most of the defensive linemen that signed this year with BYU will go on to serve a mission But Coach Kaufusi believes they'll have a true freshman that will also contribute right away.
"Then we'll add Jaterrius Gulley too, you know," Coach Kaufusi said. "He's going to help us this year. He's a big dude."
BYU's defensive line coach is excited to coach up his players.
"Oh yeah, it's always exciting to see," said Coach Kaufusi. "You recruit them and so you hope that they turn out for you because it's better than being a bust, every one of those guys and guys in the program, but it's time for them to step up too. So, hopefully this is the year they can switch the light on and say, ‘Okay, I can help find a role.' I'm excited about the group."
One player Coach Kaufusi won't be coaching is his son Bronson, who made the move from defensive end to weak side linebacker following the end of last season. Although Coach Kaufusi must feel some sadness now that he's no longer coaching his son, he believes the move is what's best.
"He's really a 4-3 defensive end type of player, you know, and he played down there in the 3-4, but I like the defensive tackle, nose guard type," Coach Kaufusi said. "But he played down there and it was good. It helped toughen him up and it worked his hands a little bit and technique and stuff, but I'm happy for him. I'm glad the coaches feel like they can give him a shot out there. Now it's up to him to prove that he can do it out there. Yeah, I'm excited for him."
Many question having a 260-pound player like Bronson at the outside linebacker position. However, Coach Kaufusi explained that there have been many outstanding defensive linemen under his tutelage that have gone on to become outstanding outside linebackers.
"Yeah, it's just all hands," said Coach Kaufusi. "It really builds your confidence, if you think about it. Brady [Poppinga] played with me a little bit and then he moved to outside backer. Vic So'oto, he played for me and then moved out there. Ziggy [Ezekiel Ansah] was with me for a little bit. So, all those guys played linebacker and were pass-rush guys and not all that big. There was Brett Denney and Jan Jorgensen and they were only 260-pound guys and really worked hard on fundamentals.
"But really they had no business playing down there [on the defensive line], but that's all we had when we started playing the 3-4, but it really helped their game. It really helps toughing you up, so when you have to go out and play against the tight end, it's a piece of cake compared to an offensive tackle or guard. Bronson's strength is the pass rush,