Once University of Utah graduate transfer Paul Maile gets more settled in at BYU and earns a starting spot on the Cougars’ offensive line, he says he and his teammates have to come up with a name for their group.
“I just needed something new. I feel like I needed a change. If I wanted to be the best me I could be, and get the most out of my last year of eligibility, I had to get out of Utah.” — new BYU offensive lineman Paul Maile
“We are trying to come up with something new down here,” the 6-foot-2, 300-pound product of Salt Lake City’s East High said. “Shout-out to my old O-Block boys at Utah. I love those guys. Those guys are my dudes. But I need to come up with a new name for my BYU dogs. We have something in the works. We will figure something out.”
A lot of Utah fans are trying to figure out why Maile would leave the Utes after starting 12 games at center last year for the Pac-12 champions.
“I just needed something new,” he said. “I feel like I needed a change. If I wanted to be the best me I could be, and get the most out of my last year of eligibility, I had to get out of Utah.”
Maile is the son of Darlene Kaufusi and stepson of former Utah football player Henry Kaufusi. He graduated from Utah with two degrees — in family, community and human development, as well as sociology.
“It wasn’t anything against the boys there or the coaches, because I love everybody up there,” he said. “It was just that I needed a fresh start for me.”
Maile said when he entered the transfer portal in early January he really didn’t picture himself landing at BYU. Sure, the Cougars had recruited him a little bit out of high school, but that was long ago and he had never really reciprocated the interest, other than attending one of head coach Kalani Sitake’s camps.
He had some other opportunities, including offers that came with name, image and likeness (NIL) deals, but in the end he bonded with BYU’s coaching staff and some of its offensive linemen and committed on Jan. 17.
“I didn’t want money, but I wanted to have somewhere where I could plant the seeds if football doesn’t work out to take advantage of my time as a student-athlete,” he said. “That ended up being BYU. The network they have here is unreal. That had a huge part in me coming here, and then just the culture. I love coach Kalani, and offensive line coach (Darrell) Funk is cool, too.
“And I saw where we have the boys here to make some things happen in the Big 12 and shock a lot of people,” he continued.
Does this offensive line at BYU have as much talent as the O-Block?
“There is just as much talent,” Maile said. “They have got dogs on both teams. I love my old boys up at Utah. Wish them nothing but the best. But we got some dogs down here, too.”
One of those “dogs” is 6-5, 312-pound junior Connor Pay, who started 12 games at center — the same position Maile played at Utah — last year for the 8-5 Cougars. Obviously, both guys can’t snap the ball.
In the media viewing portions of preseason training camp, the two veterans have rotated at center with the first team, getting equal reps. When Maile leaves the center position, he plays left guard. When Pay leaves the center position, he plays right guard.
Funk said the starting center spot is “still up in the air” and too close to call after two weeks of camp.
“But it is a pretty safe assumption that however that shakes out at center, the other one will be a starting guard,” Funk said at Wednesday’s photo day. “It is not set in stone yet, but it is a pretty good guess.”
Maile said he will do whatever he’s asked.
“I played mostly center at Utah, but Connor Pay is a heckuva center here,” Maile said. “Whatever is best for the team, whatever is the right fit, is what I will do. The important thing is the best five will be the five that play.”
After the fourth practice of fall camp, Pay said he didn’t know yet whether he will play center or guard, but if it is the latter he won’t mind because that is where he played the first half of his redshirt freshman season.
“It was kinda fun to go back to guard,” Pay said. “A little less to think about than center, so you can just kinda go run and play. It is fun playing next to Paul. I enjoy it a lot.”
Although he committed to BYU in January, Maile didn’t move to Provo until June. He lives with his younger brother, Orion Maile Kaufusi, a defensive end who just got home from a church mission and plans to enroll at BYU next January.
“I was commuting from Salt Lake every day from January to June, so that was tough,” Maile said.
He made the drive every day to get better acquainted with his new teammates and coaches, as well as strength and conditioning coaches like Coleby Clawson and Dr. Skyler Mayne.
Maile wasn’t able to participate in spring camp because he was still recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum. He said he was cleared a week before fall camp began.
“I am full go now and excited to compete for a starting spot,” he said.
And then he will go to work on a good nickname for this offensive line that Funk and offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said is eight to 10 players deep.
“The top five or six are kinda set, but after that they are battling,” Funk said of his O-line depth chart. “So we are going to be deeper. We have got some guys with experience. But yeah, we are probably a week away from the dust settling on that.”
Funk said if you have eight guys game ready, “you are golden,” and he believes he has that. Oklahoma State transfer Caleb Etienne and All-America candidate Kingsley Suamataia seemingly have the starting tackle spots nailed down.
Another offensive lineman who started 18 games for the Utes, Simi Moala, is also in the mix for a starting spot, along with redshirt junior Brayden Keim, Weber State transfer Jake Eichorn, Missouri State transfer Ian Fitzgerald, Utah State transfer Weylin Lapuaho and Trevin Ostler, a redshirt freshman from Bountiful.
“Right now we have 14 guys in the mix for that top 10 or 11,” Funk said. “I would love to get to the middle of next week and at least have some idea of how it will shake out. We will see.”