Arizona football: Tutogi invaluable to Cats

2011-10-07T00:00:00Z 2014-09-15T10:20:22Z Arizona football: Tutogi invaluable to CatsRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 07, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Taimi Tutogi doesn't know why carrying a 14.4-ounce hunk of pebbled leather makes him run faster, hit harder and move quicker.

But he's certain there's a difference.

"When I have the ball in my hands, I just feel like nobody can stop me - USC, Oregon, whoever it is," he said. "The first person's not going to bring me down. It's going to take at least half your defense or your whole defense to bring me down. That's just my mindset."

The junior H-back/running back won't win a Heisman Trophy any time soon, despite the self-confidence, but he has found a place in the Arizona Wildcats' suddenly balanced offense.

Tutogi caught a career-high four passes for 40 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's 48-41 loss to USC. This season, he has rushed five times for 19 yards and a touchdown and has caught five balls for 51 yards and a score.

Special teams coach Jeff Hammerschmidt calls the 6-foot-1-inch, 250-pound Tutogi "an all-purpose back," a Swiss army knife of a player who can be deployed in a handful of different situations.

Tutogi has benefited more from the UA's new "bone" formation, a full-house package operated out of the shotgun; Saturday, the UA used him on runs, straight passes and play-action passes.

He also has been invaluable on special teams. In addition to serving as Kyle Dugandzic's "personal protector" on punts - and the go-to player should the UA ever fake - Tutogi blocks on kickoffs. He has even returned one this season, for 27 yards.

"He's a fullback, an H-back, a tailback … he does everything," Hammerschmidt said.

Still, there's no doubting Tutogi's favorite role: ball-carrier.

He was a go-to player at Chula Vista (Calif.) High School, a total of 167 times for 957 yards and 22 touchdowns during his final two seasons.

Tutogi signed with the Wildcats in 2009 as a defensive end/fullback, and spent his first two seasons learning how to block and fending off injuries. Though the fundamentals of the position can still be a challenge, the 20-year-old bulldozer seems to be improving by the week. He knocked a USC player out during a kickoff return last week, and - along with tight end Drew Robinson - has been credited for the UA's improved ground game.

The Wildcats rushed for just 92 combined yards in losses to Oklahoma State and Stanford. Since then, they have posted 82 yards in a loss to Oregon and 129 yards against USC.

Tutogi's getting more totes, too, but not as many as he'd like.

"I keep asking my coaches to get the ball, but it's not up to me. It's up to them," he said.

"Whether its blocking or whether its getting the ball, I'm going to do it. If I'm not getting the ball, I'll just keep grinding and grinding. If I do get the ball, I'm going to get the best out of it like I did Saturday."

Tutogi time

• Who: Taimi Tutogi

• Height/weight: 6-1/250

• Position: H-back/RB

• 2011 statistics: 5 carries, 19 yards, 1 TD; 5 receptions, 51 yards, 1 TD

• 2010 statistics: 1 carry, minus-1 yard, 0 TD; 5 receptions, 63 yards, 0 TD

Up next

• What: Arizona at Oregon State

• When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday

• TV: Fox College Sports Pacific (check your cable guide for availability)

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

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