Provo • Freshman defensive end Bronson Kaufusi returned from his LDS Church mission just a week or so before BYU started preseason camp in August, but recovered from the two-year layoff so well that he’s now a major contributor on the Cougars’ top-ranked defense.
After the Cougars’ expected appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 20, Kaufusi could add another item to his athletic resume: BYU basketball player.
The 6-foot-6, 260-pound Kaufusi confirmed after practice Monday that he was contacted recently by BYU basketball coach Dave Rose regarding his interest in joining the team when the football season is over. The basketball team is thin along the frontline with scholarship forwards Chris Collinsworth and Stephen Rogers being forced into retirement due to lingering injuries.
“Gotta stay focused on the [football] season,” Kaufusi said. “But afterwards, if there is an opportunity, then I will take it.”
Kaufusi was an all-state basketball player at nearby Timpview High, and likely would have received scholarship offers in that sport if he had not committed so early to BYU football, where his father, Steve, is the Cougars’ defensive line coach.
“I think it would be a challenge, but something that is possible. ... It is something that could happen,” he said of joining the basketball team. “It would really be manageable.”
Kaufusi quickly pointed out that everything is still in the “discussion” stage, and that he won’t do both sports without the blessing of BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall.
Asked about it Monday, Mendenhall did not seem to be as excited about the prospects as Kaufusi.
“It is really hard to be good at just one sport, let alone two. So I would say that just as a blanket statement,” Mendenhall said. “Very few guys are capable of playing two. So it is really premature to even consider it or talk about it. Maybe after the bowl game we can consider that.”
Without playing a game over the weekend, the Cougars moved up in several key national defensive categories when the new NCAA rankings were released Sunday.
The Cougars stayed at No. 4 in total defense (263.56 ypg.), moved from eighth to seventh in scoring defense and 10th to seventh in rushing defense.
They are ninth in pass defense (were 12th) and 20th in sacks. They remained first in red zone defense and third in third-down conversion defense.
Center Braden Hansen, who suffered a groin tear in the 17-14 loss to Notre Dame, is not back on the two-deep chart and most likely will not play Saturday against Idaho.
Asked about Hansen’s condition Monday, Mendenhall said, “I don’t know yet.”
A total of 24 players will be honored on Senior Night at LaVell Edwards Stadium as the Cougars play their final home game of the 2012 season. The players usually receive blankets in a ceremony after the game.
However, Mendenhall said Monday that “we will honor them more [before the game], just with how late the start is.”
Mendenhall is 8-1 in games played after a bye week. His only loss came in 2005 when the Cougars fell 51-50 at home to TCU in overtime. ... Idaho leads the country in turnovers, with 27 through nine games. ... ESPN.com projected on Monday that BYU will face former Mountain West Conference rival San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 20. National expert Phil Steele also predicts a Cougars-Aztecs matchup at SDSU’s home stadium.
Idaho at BYU
P Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
TV • ESPNU