Provo • Playing for his fourth college football program since his record-setting days as Jordan High’s quarterback, Austin Kafentzis cannot afford to be patient any longer.
That’s why the 6-foot-1, 205-pound athlete asked to be moved from offense to defense, running back to strong safety, last Tuesday in another startling move in his well-traveled career. Coaches granted his wish and he practiced at safety Monday for the third time.
“It was just one of those moves that I felt was best,” Kafentzis said. “I only have two more years left. I want to get on the field and play in whatever way I can. It doesn’t matter if it is offense, defense or special teams, I feel like I can contribute and help the team out.”
Kafentzis began his BYU career last fall as a quarterback, having transferred from Wisconsin to Nevada to a junior college in Arizona to Provo. But finding himself buried on the depth chart at QB, he moved to receiver. When several running backs were injured during the season, he moved to that position and made some significant contributions.
He finished the season with the third-most rushing yards on the team (235) and was especially effective in the season finale at Hawaii, picking up 98 yards on 18 carries. But he found himself getting precious few reps during live scrimmages this spring, and decided to switch to defense after a heart-to-heart meeting with new running backs coach AJ Steward.
“I was just sitting there watching practice, and I don’t play football to watch practice,” he said. “I want to be on the field. That’s why I’m on this long road and difficult journey. Sitting back and watching practice isn’t really my cup of tea. I don’t think it is anyone’s cup of tea here, so if someone in my shoes has the option or opportunity to switch, I am pretty sure they would do the same thing.”
Kafentzis played a little bit of defense at Jordan, but not as much as he did in youth football leagues growing up.
“Slowly and surely I am getting it down,” he said. “That comes from getting the reps and studying and watching a lot of film. And these meetings we have help a lot. I am acting like a sponge right now and just trying to get as much information as I can from the veterans and the coaches.”
Coach Kalani Sitake said the move has been positive so far.
“He is a great athlete,” Sitake said Monday. “He can play a lot of different positions. … He did some great things in the scrimmage [Friday] for only being a safety for a short time. He locked up [Matt] Bushman a couple times, and he did some good things today. The goal is to get the best 11 on the field, and that means all over the place, every position.”
Sitake said they still might use Kafentzis on offense in certain situations — he ran plays out of the wildcat formation last season — but for now he’s a full-time safety.
More news and notes from spring camp
Tight end Joe Tukuafu suffered a fractured right hand last week and will miss the remainder of spring camp. … Sophomore tight end Matt Bushman played baseball last spring after spring camp, but said Monday he won’t do that this year in an effort to more fully learn the new offense and stay as healthy as possible. … Linebacker Matt Hadley is at full strength after breaking his knee cap in the opener vs. Portland State last season. Hadley has appealed for a medical hardship waiver to get the year back and is still awaiting the NCAA’s decision.
BYU’s position switches in spring camp
Running back Austin Kafentzis is playing strong safety
Receiver Beau Tanner is playing cornerback
Safety Zayne Anderson is playing flash linebacker
Defensive end Sione Takitaki is playing linebacker
Offensive lineman JJ Nwigwe is playing tight end
Cornerback Troy Warner will move to safety when he’s healthy
Running back Trey Dye is playing receiver
Outside linebacker Patrick Folau is playing middle linebacker