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From BYU to Utah: Defensive end Devin Kaufusi explains why he’s leaving Provo, joining Cougars’ biggest rival

Kaufusi, who played for BYU for two years, says he believes transferring to Utah will make him a better football player

Brigham Young Cougars defensive lineman Devin Kaufusi (90) enters the field in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Defensive end Devin Kaufusi — whose last name has been synonymous with Cougar football the past 10 years or so — made a mild splash a month ago when he announced he was leaving BYU after two seasons and entering the transfer portal.

The rising junior made even bigger noise Wednesday by saying that he is transferring to Utah, and will receive a scholarship from BYU’s biggest rival.

“Leaving BYU is one thing for a Kaufusi, but leaving BYU to go to Utah is a whole different animal,” he told the Deseret News Wednesday night. “But when it came down to it with me transferring, Utah was just kind of always the school I had in mind.”

Kaufusi, whose brothers Corbin and Bronson had standout careers at BYU, entered the transfer portal in March. His father, Steve Kaufusi, played for BYU and was a longtime assistant coach at the school.

Why is he leaving Provo?

“It is one of my goals to become the best football player I can be, and just spending two years there (at BYU), I just felt that for me to develop into that person that I want to become, it wasn’t happening there,” he said. “And so, just seeing that, and being in a football home all growing up and seeing years of good football, and not so good football, I just felt like that for me personally, I could be a better football player somewhere else.”

Kaufusi said as soon as he entered the transfer portal, he started hearing from schools throughout the country, including Virginia, UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, Utah State and Washington State.

He said Utah’s proximity won him over, as well as the chance to play with his best friend, Utah receiver Britain Covey, whom he calls “my brother through and through.” Kaufusi and Covey attended Timpview High together and spent “hours and hours of time” in each others’ homes growing up.

“Pleased to announce that I have officially committed to the University of Utah,” Kaufusi tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “There I will further my football career and education. Thank you @CoachPowell99 @UtahCoachWhitt @SafetyPride @Utah_Football UTAH MAN AM I.”

Devin Kaufusi played in 25 games over the past two seasons after serving two years in the Alpine German-Speaking Mission in Europe for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During his two seasons with the Cougars, Kaufusi had 15 tackles, one sack, a quarterback hurry and two pass breakups. He played the 2018 season with brother Corbin.

“BYU has done so much for me and my family and has been a huge blessing for us,” Devin Kaufusi said. “I wouldn’t be where I am at, or my family is at, without BYU.”

With his playing time limited, Kaufusi was not nearly as effective as his brothers were in their later years at BYU, and he also struggled with a sore shoulder. He had shoulder surgery in January and decided shortly after that to look for greener pastures.

“Really, in my situation, it was kind of crazy on paper to leave BYU,” he said. “I just had surgery, I didn’t have much film to back up what I had to offer to other schools. And so yeah, it was kinda crazy in that sense. But I knew the best thing for me to do was leave BYU. ... But my confidence is high. I know I am a scholarship-worthy athlete. Knowing the timing of everything, with spring coming and everything, I knew it would be hard to find a school with an open scholarship at that time.”

But Utah, and particularly defensive line coach Lewis Powell, quickly pounced.

The Utes will be looking to replace three of four starters on the defensive line due to graduation, with Leki Fotu, Bradlee Anae and John Penisini gone. Utah signed a pair of local four-star defensive ends — Corner Canyon’s Van Fillinger and Juan Diego’s Xavier Carlton — in its 2020 recruiting class.

“It’s close to home, and I have seen the results they have had through players in the past, and as a defense,” Kaufusi said. “Coach Powell gives me the confidence in knowing who I am and who I can become.”

Kaufusi said sitting out a year won’t be awful because it will give his shoulder more time to heal and will allow him to get acclimated academically. He knows there is also the possibility of the NCAA changing its transfer rules to allow athletes their first transfer without penalty of sitting out a year.

“It will work out,” he said. “Yeah, I am excited to head up to Utah.”