Rich Rodriguez has a lot to be thankful for. He inherits a program where he can sell an in the making, state of the art football facility; a quarterback that fits his offense; proven wide receivers and at least one potential star in Dan Buckner; a full-returning offensive line; and an H-back that could prove to be the best fullback in college football this season.
Taimi Tutogi has put in the work under Mike Stoops and the former Arizona coaching staff. Each offseason he was promised “more touches”, and worked hard during involuntary workouts, spring and fall camps, and every day in game-week preparation to do something with the football in his hands when he got those touches.
Unfortunately, the promised touches, the promise of being utilized more greatly came and went the past three seasons in which he never surpassed 250 yards of total offense.
In step Rodriguez and his wide open offense that does use the fullback/H-back, effectively.
In Tutogi, Rodriguez gets from stoops a 6-foot-1, 260-pound bulldozer made of iron steel (and muscle). Further, he gets a top 10 player at his position in the nation, and the odds on best in the Pac-12. Tutogi likely won’t make first or second team all-conference by season’s end, but that’s only because voters prefer to place two running backs and the traditional tight end on their ballots. Still, as Arizona’s season unfolds, expect to see Tutogi doing damage on the gridiron as both a blocker and a misdirection runner and pass catcher out of the backfield.
The one bugaboo with Stoops and his numerous attempts at overhauling the entire offensive game plan each season was the simple fact that every time there was a major program change, it always seem to come after 2-3 recruiting classes in which players were recruited for the previous offensive scheme. As a result, a player like Tutogi that possesses all the skills to excel as a second or third option in the backfield became the proverbial fish out of water.
Under Rodriguez, that won’t happen.
Tutogi has the opportunity to shine as a senior at Arizona, and will. He has already proven to be a devastating lead blocker. Additionally, once Tim Kish was named interim coach and Arizona went to its Pull Out All The Stops game plan, Tutogi proved to be a beast to tackle as a ball carrier.
The thing, though, is Tutogi is more of an all-around football player than Wildcat fans realize. In Arizona’s final four games last year, Tutogi returned his fair share of kicks. He ran pass patterns out of the backfield and in this writer’s opinion wasn’t thrown the ball to enough.
Rodriguez, unlike Stoops (and pick any of his offensive coordinators), won’t make that same mistake.
Stoops and his staff may have underutilized Tutogi in seasons past, but Rodriguez won’t make that same mistake in 2012. Expect to see Tutogi have a truly special breakout year and climb the NFL Draft Board in the process.
Follow me on Twitter @garyrandazzo, and use our social network buttons to share this story with your Arizona friends on Facebook or Twitter.