It’s not uncommon at any college football program to have a player decide to seek other opportunities and enter the transfer portal.
It happens regularly at BYU, although it doesn’t usually cause a huge stir like it did over the weekend when word got out that junior Devin Kaufusi — younger brother of former Cougar stars Bronson Kaufusi and Corbin Kaufusi — had elected to move on.
These types of decisions cause mixed emotions for coaches and teammates.
“I’ve seen a few guys transfer in my time here,” BYU senior defensive lineman Bracken El-Bakri said Monday after practice. “Every guy is a little bit different about it. Some guys are very open and vocal. They talk about it with their friends and get everyone’s opinion. Others are really quiet about it. But it can hurt when it is one of your friends. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said he would respect Devin Kaufusi and not share any of his reasoning for entering the transfer portal.
“There is always a variety of reasons but I’m going to respect him and allow him to share if that’s what he wants,” Sitake said. “I’m OK with the guys who don’t want to be here. We’ll work with the guys who want to be here and help us win.”
He did talk generally about the realities of having a guy decide to leave the team.
“The portal is there for a reason and it’s always going to be full,” Sitake said. “There are a variety of reasons why someone would enter the portal but I think from where we are at it’s a positive thing for me to speak to them, help them out and support them. The most important thing for them is they want to play football and I’m excited to help anyone out. Everyone who has left here and gone in the portal, it’s always been a positive conversation with me.”
He said there is a balance for a coach when it comes to trying to have a guy get back on track with his program or realize that you need to let a player go because he doesn’t want to be there any more.
“Part of it is whether they are making the best decision,” Sitake said. “Is it an emotional decision? Does it need more time? I think it’s important for me to advise them and kind of take a step back, hear them out a little bit. If they don’t want to be here, it’s not going to work. It doesn’t mean it has to be a negative thing. I care about them and because I care about them, I’d like to see them have success somewhere else. If I tell these guys I love them and care about them, then that never stops.”
Sometimes players enter the transfer portal but then change their minds and end up returning.
“There are guys who are walking on as a result of that,” Sitake said. “I warned them of the options and the possible results. That’s just part of the deal. Before making the final decision I think it’s important they know what is out there and the possible outcomes.”
El-Bakri said that often the initial pain of have a teammate leave wears off and future encounters can be positive ones.
“I love everyone who has transferred,” El-Bakri said. “That’s how our team works. We love each other. At the Utah State game last year, we were there with Riley Burt. At first it’s hard not to feel betrayed maybe but overall their going to be your friend. It’s college football and people are going to make decisions for their own lives.”
The flip side of course is that BYU has had contributors leave other programs and decide to come to Provo. Sitake said that’s something he’s always considering.
“We’re always interested,” Sitake said. “I believe fit is the most important part. It’s got to fit the numbers, fit the scheme and fit our needs as well.”