In the first week of spring camp, BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall fielded a question regarding “Skinny Bronson” Kaufusi, the former defensive lineman who switched to outside linebacker this year.
“I like him,” Mendenhall said. “When you look to throw the ball to wherever he is — standing back where I was with the quarterback — you don’t see much on the other side of ‘Skinny Bronson,’ in terms of wingspan and everything.”
It seems the junior has added a new nickname to the “LeBronson” he earned during his stint on the Cougar basketball team, this latest one coming due to the fact that he’s dropped 25 pounds from his 6-foot-7 frame.
He said that his size is more a natural fit for the edge than playing as a defensive lineman.
“I’m 6-foot-7 and I don’t weigh 300 pounds,” Kaufusi said. “I was like 285 last year and now I’m about 260, 265. Being able to play the edge is more like that 4-3 defensive end. That’s what I played in high school and I like it a lot more because you’re more aggressive.”
He’s now experienced both putting on weight and shedding the pounds, and he said there are some things he likes about both.
“I’m more comfortable at 265,” Kaufusi said. “I really had to eat so much and do a ton of dieting to get up there. I got smarter, not eating as much, and my body took to it. I do (miss the binge eating). I see the commercials on TV and those fries look good.”
Kaufusi said he knew for a couple of months that he would need to make some changes as he transitioned to a new position.
"There was some talk towards the end of the year," he said. "I played a little of it, mainly in our nickel package. I really found out just after the bowl game. I was excited because I felt like it was going to fit me a lot better."
It also meant that he would no longer be directly under his dad, BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi. Steve said it was the right thing to do for Bronson's future.
"He needs to move out there," Steve said. "He’s too tall and he’s not big enough to play down. On a 3-4 team, it’s really more like three nose guards. He’s a 4-3 defensive end, so playing out on the edge at the Will linebacker position, that’s what he’s good at. Obviously he’s got to go out there and show that he can do it, so that’s what he’s working on."
Now Bronson is under Cougar outside linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga, who said he likes what he's seen from the junior so far.
"Bronson is making the transition well right now to outside backer," Poppinga said. "I’ve been super-impressed with him in his first two days. He’s going to be great off the edge. We knew that the last two seasons. When he’s been really productive has been when he was coming off the edge."
Poppinga said his part of the discussion on moving Bronson didn't require much effort.
"It was pretty easy," he said. "It was just, hey, let’s move Bronson to outside backer. Kyle left and really we didn’t have any experience there. We were looking for another player with playing experience and Bronson kind of fit the mold. We had a lot of guys coming home off of missions as defensive linemen. It was an easy decision for us to move him."
Naturally, Bronson was asked which coach he liked better and his response was fittingly non-committal.
"Family first but I love them both," he said. "They are both great coaches."
Poppinga said he knows Bronson knows what to do as far as run fits and pass rush but said coverage is the area he will need to work on.
"He didn’t do that much, although he did a little of that as the season went on last year," Poppinga said. "Where he’s at now, he’s doing buzz drops and flat drops, so he’s going to have to get that down. Just learning how it all goes and where he fits, he has a long way to go that way."
BYU senior linebacker Alani Fua said there is also a mental element to coverage that Bronson will have to get a grasp of.
"It’s about understanding the defense more and what is going on on the back end," he said. "Usually on defensive line you are just worried about the guy in front of you and you don’t know what else is going on. Now that he’s in coverage, he has to know what the corners are doing, what the safeties are doing. I think once he understands all that, he’ll be fine."
Fua said he likes how Bronson is developing and thinks his athleticism will be a big benefit for the linebackers.
"He’s athletic, a freak that way kind of like Ziggy (Ezekiel Ansah)," Fua said. "In that aspect, he’s great but I think once he learns exactly what he’s doing, he’ll be able to unleash his wrath on the quarterbacks and everyone else out there."
The secondary is also looking forward to having someone of Bronson's size making things tough on opposing offenses.
"Bronson is an athlete, so I feel like we should’ve been doing that with him the whole time," senior defensive back Rob Daniel said. "He can cover, he can rush the quarterback, so it was exciting to see that. He’ll definitely disrupt the pass game."
Bronson explained that getting ahead on the learning curve is the goal he has for himself this spring.
"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," he said. "First learning it is what I need to do. "
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.