|Ezekiel Ansah went from novice to NFL draft pick under Steve Kaufusi (Scott Cunningham, Getty Images North America).|
By now, it is old news that Steve Kaufusi has left the BYU Cougars coaching staff. He spent 16 seasons coaching the Cougars, and was really an unsung hero on the staff.
BYU changed head coaches, twice, but Kaufusi remained on staff. Bronco Mendenhall made a radical decision to fire his defensive coordinator mid-2010. Kaufusi survived that trauma, too.
Looking over Kaufusi's resume, it becomes clear why he was able to stay as long as he did. He's a good coach. Whether it was taking an undersized guy and turning him into a Mountain West Conference record holder, or taking a complete novice and making him BYU's highest draft pick since Jim McMahon, Kaufusi did some great things for the Cougars defensive line without receiving very much credit.
In an effort to shed a little light on Kaufusi's great coaching effort, Blue Cougar Football conducted a poll asking "Who is the best defensive lineman that Steve Kaufusi coached at BYU?" The official poll results are below.
Official ResultsBefore, going further, a brief explanation about Brady Poppinga. Kaufusi's coaching bio on BYU's website indicates he coached Poppinga. When viewing the roster for the years he played, BYU lists him as a linebacker. He still made the list because he was the the best player from the first few years of Kaufusi's coaching career at BYU, and backed that up with a good NFL career.
72% Ezekiel Ansah
13% Jan Jorgensen
10% Bronson Kaufusi
5% Brady Poppinga
Poppinga had 193 tackles, including 19 sacks, and 39 tackles for loss in his BYU career. However, almost all of that happened during Gary Crowton's losing seasons. Besides not being a true defensive lineman, the bad teams he was a part of probably explains why he received so few votes.
The other three candidates provided an interesting selection for voters.
Jorgensen would be a great pick because he had the longevity as a major contributor all four years, he had the accolades (multiple first-team All-MWC, MWC record holder for sacks and tackles for loss), and he had a competitive disadvantage (size). That last reason is a testament to Kaufusi and his coaching abilities. Jorgensen didn't get a sniff at the NFL, but somehow made 221 tackles, 28.5 sacks, and 44 tackles for loss in college.
Bronson Kaufusi made a great candidate because he had the four-year college production (168 tackles, 26.5 sacks, 44 TFL), and he is in the middle of making an NFL career. Plus, as Steve's son, you know he has taught Bronson almost everything he knows.
The final choice, and the runaway winner is Ezekiel Ansah. While he only had one season at BYU making real contributions, he had a dominating presence. He has also continued to have success post BYU, as @rise_upcougars said on Twitter.
Number 5 overall pick, dominating in the NFL, may not have reached his ceiling yet. #Ziggy— rick platts 🤙 (@rise_upcougars) January 20, 2018
From a pure talent standpoint, Ansah is the obvious choice. In light of the fact that he came to BYU not knowing how to put pads on, he is probably the most appropriate choice. The development Ansah made in just three years is astonishing, and can only happen with the help of a good position coach.
Thank you to everyone who voted. A breakdown of the votes from each polling source is below. It was quite interesting to see how closely they matched this week, and not just in percentage breakdown but total votes.
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