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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Taimi Tutogi goes two ways for Arizona

Larry Hogan/Arizona Daily Wildcat Defensive lineman Taimi Tutogi, No. 31, attempts to get past Toledo’s offensive line during Saturdays 24-17 overtime win.

In Pop Warner leagues and high school football, the young players typically play both offense and defense. It’s not as common of a practice in college football, although there still are some teams around the country that employ the two-way player strategy.

Taimi Tutogi, a 6-foot-1, 260-pound fullback who has returned kicks, will also see some snaps at the defensive end. The Wildcats moved multiple players across the line of scrimmage to protect an already thin defensive unit.

“We [asked Tutogi to play defense] in the spring a little bit with some one-on-one pass rush drills so we knew back then, ‘Hey, this guy has a chance,’” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “In the first day of practices at camp, he spent time on the defensive side, and as the weeks went along we spent a little more time.”

Tutogi, who hails from Chula Vista, Calif., has started 16 games at the UA, and can add defensive end to a versatile list of positions he’s played while at Arizona: H-back, tight end, fullback and tailback.

Although he was recruited to the UA as a defensive end, Tutogi has to adjust as he will play more snaps than usual and have to relearn the defensive terminology that comes with the position.

“It’s tough, because on offense you have to know a lot of plays and take tests the night before a game,” Tutogi said. “Defense is the same amount. It’s hard because these guys are just focused on defensive stuff, but when I’m in the hotel, I have to look at offense and defense. It’s a fair amount, but it’s nothing I can’t handle and nothing I can’t take in.”

Despite the workload he already has as a power runner and blocker in the Wildcats’ spread offense, Tutogi has welcomed the change to defensive end.

“Offense is my main role but defense is fun,” Tutogi said Monday. “Knowing my role and just coming off the edge and trying to kill the quarterback is fun. I just have to put some pressure on him.”

In Saturday’s 24-17 overtime win against Toledo, Tutogi didn’t see the ball much on offense, as he had only one carry. He was stuffed at the line and lost a yard on fourth down early in the fourth quarter. He made more of a presence on defense, recovering a fumble. He spent the entire overtime period at defensive end, which, according to Rodriguez, was part of the team’s plan.

“He played 17 or 18 snaps [on defense] which is what we thought — somewhere around 20,” Rodriguez said. “I think he made a nice impact. He’s one of our better pass rushers. He’s got a good motor.”

That motor, a quality Arizona coaches love to see in their players, didn’t stop Tutogi from feeling fatigued during the waning moments of overtime, but said he was ecstatic to still be on the field at the end of the game.

“There’s never a better feeling than being able to be out there and get the win, ending with you on the field,” he said.

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