Arizona football: Big H-back Tutogi ready to pull his weight

2011-08-15T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T12:14:40Z Arizona football: Big H-back Tutogi ready to pull his weightPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 15, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Taimi Tutogi is listed, officially, as the Arizona Wildcats' starting "Big H."

He's 6 feet 1 inch and 250 pounds, so the word "big" is implied anyway.

But in the jargon of the UA offense, Tutogi is an H-back - part tight end, part fullback, who could line up at the line of scrimmage or be sent in motion.

The junior can also line up on the line of scrimmage as a tight end, or in the backfield as a fullback or tailback.

He is expected to block, catch and run for the Arizona Wildcats, who participated in a Fort Huachuca team-building exercise Sunday before returning to Tucson to practice today.

"Whatever I'm in to do, I think that's what I am," Tutogi said. "I feel like I play a big role in our offense.

"When I get the ball, I run. When I've got to block, I block.

"I play tight end. I go out for passes and block. I don't see myself as just one thing."

The Star spoke to Tutogi, who is happy to be healthy during fall camp, about his three main responsibilities:

On blocking

The San Diego-area native was used almost exclusively as a blocker last season, struggling with a left knee sprain in September.

He started five games and appeared in 12, yet ran the ball only one time.

"Last year, there was a lot of blocking," Tutogi said. "I don't think (coaches) had a lot of confidence in me last year."

Tutogi was learning defensive fronts - and who to hit, when.

It's not as easy as it sounds.

"Looking at the reads, the (defensive) ends, the linebackers, you have to see all that," he said. "It's different from running back to fullback to tight end."

Linebacker Paul Vassallo can tell a difference this year.

"That's what, I think, another year of experience just does for people," he said. "You make all the reads you need to do easier and quicker and faster, and then you just go out and play football.

"You no longer have to think; you just react and play."

On running

Vassallo, the Wildcats' leading tackler last season, thinks Tutogi could be a force if given the chance.

"I would like to see him get at least 20 carries a game," the linebacker said. "He's a bruiser. That's the way it is - you can't just knock 250 pounds backwards, especially with him running full speed.

"He's a good athlete. I would like to see him get the ball more."

As a freshman, he ran 11 times for 50 yards and a score in a blowout of Washington State - but didn't carry the ball again the rest of the season.

Of course, Tutogi - who had two carries for 1 yard in Saturday's scrimmage - wants the ball in his hands.

"I'm a pretty decent blocker," he said, "but I think I run the ball pretty hard."

Told of Vassallo's comment Saturday, Tutogi smiled.

"That's my man," he joked.

On receiving

Tutogi came to the UA to play defensive line, but switched early during his freshman year in 2009 with the help of starter Chris Gronkowski.

Tutogi is becoming more comfortable at the spot every day.

"I'm trying to show them to try to give me some trust," he said. "Give me the ball. Show them I can do it."

Last year, he caught five passes for 63 yards. Wide receiver David Douglas thinks he could top that this season.

"He's a big old dude," he said. "A guy who weighs that much that can make plays. He's a hard guy to tackle.

"He's got a lot of talent. He's going make a lot of plays for us."

Be it at H-back, tight end, fullback, running back - or anywhere else on the field Tutogi shows up.

"He's definitely a weapon we need to use," Vassallo said.

Coming Aug. 28

The Star's 2011 college football preview section.

• Season opener: Sept. 3 vs. NAU

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