Tutogi sees both sides
IRONMAN

Arizona football: Senior ironman Taimi Tutogi makes 'nice impact' on offense and defense

2012-09-05T00:00:00Z 2013-09-10T15:13:33Z Arizona football: Senior ironman Taimi Tutogi makes 'nice impact' on offense and defenseRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 05, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Taimi Tutogi's new role as a two-way player requires him to take weekly tests on the Arizona Wildcats' offense and defense and interact with two sets of position groups, coaches and schemes.

Playing both ways, the UA senior's workload has grown exponentially, maybe five-fold.

Not that Tutogi is complaining.

"It's a fair amount, but it's nothing I can't handle and nothing I can't take in," he said. "It's like, 'Read it all, get it all, understand it all and let it go show on Saturdays.'"

Tutogi was certainly impressive in his first Saturday as Arizona's ironman. The 6-foot-1-inch, 260-pound senior recovered a fumble in the UA's 24-17 overtime win over Toledo. He also played extensively at fullback, rushing one time for minus-1 yard but clearing the way for running backs Ka'Deem Carey and Daniel Jenkins.

First-year coach Rich Rodriguez said Tutogi "made a nice impact" while playing about 60 snaps - 40 on offense and 20 on defense.

"That's a lot of plays for him, but we need him to play that many," Rodriguez said.

Here's a look at the Wildcats' two-way player, what he brings and how he feels about the move:

Making the switch: Tutogi played fullback and H-back during his first three seasons at the UA, racking up 283 yards of total offense and scoring six touchdowns.

Rodriguez and his assistants instantly identified Tutogi as a difference-maker on offense. When Tutogi played defense in a 1-on-1 pass-rushing drill this spring, they decided his skills would translate to defense.

"We knew right then that this guy's got a chance," Rodriguez said.

What he's asked to do: Tutogi said his job on defense is simple: Come off the edge and "try to kill the quarterback," he said. Coaches played him primarily in passing situations against Toledo, though his time on the field - and what he's asked to do - will likely expand as the season goes on. The Wildcats need him: They had just 10 total sacks a year ago, the fewest in program history.

"There's a lot of different blitzes and different calls that I need to know," he said. "For the most part, it's just, 'go after the quarterback and get to the ball.'"

Why he moved: The Cats' lack of depth on defense - and, more specifically, their problems on the line - forced coaches to think differently about personnel.

Tutogi formally moved to end in the summer, about the same time freshmen Keoni Bush-Loo and Anthony Lopez switched to linebacker from tight end and safety, respectively; another safety, Marquis Flowers, moved down to linebacker two weeks ago.

Tutogi remains the only player to see time on both sides of the ball, though there will likely be more.

"I'm not opposed to doing it in the future," Rodriguez said.

Experience at end: Tutogi played linebacker as a freshman at Chula Vista (Calif.) High School before an assistant coach convinced him to switch to defensive end. Tutogi's body type and ability to rush the passer made him a better fit at end, even as a high schooler; he led his team with 65 tackles and 11 sacks as a senior.

The coach who switched Tutogi to the defensive line, Aaron Turner, remains a mentor. Turner watched last weekend's game on ESPNU from California.

"He said I looked like I never skipped a beat," Tutogi said. "I felt pretty comfortable at end."

Still, Tutogi says, major-college football does not compare to high school.

"When you're playing Division I football, it's demanding to play one side of the ball. When you play both sides, it's really demanding," he said. "Ultimately, it just shows that all that hard work pays off."

What his teammates say: Tutogi's still learning the finer points of defensive end but has won over his teammates with a desire to improve and a "motor" that runs on both sides of the ball.

Coaches trusted Tutogi enough to put him on the field at the end of the Cats' overtime win. He was chasing Toledo's Austin Dantin when the quarterback overthrew a receiver on fourth down, ending the game.

"Even if you're making mistakes, as long as you're flying to the ball - which we do a very good job of - it makes up for a lot of stuff," linebacker Jake Fischer said. "When Taimi's out there, he has a high motor. It really helped us. … When the guy fumbled it, he was the first guy there. He was hustling."

Up next

• What: Oklahoma State at Arizona

• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

• TV: Pac-12 Arizona

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Sp)

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