Senior middle linebacker Thomas Tutogi is renowned for his preparation behind co-captain John Timu. Now that Timu is injured, Tutogi gets his chance to put his studying – and his technology – to use.
By Gregg Bell
GoHuskies.com Director of Writing
SEATTLE - After John Timu went down in the first half last week, Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox praised Timu’s replacement in the middle of the defense for how prepared he was.
As much as anyone on the 17th-ranked Huskies, senior middle linebacker Thomas Tutogi has taken full advantage of the football team’s added technology for between-games preparation. That’s even though he’s been on the depth chart behind Timu, UW’s leading tackler and co-captain, for two seasons.
“Thomas plays hard. He’s a physical guy. He does a good job embracing his physicality,” linebackers coach Peter Sirmon said this week. “He’s very focused. Sometimes he doesn’t get the reps that he wants; you know, John has been relatively healthy these last two seasons. But he’s got a good practice mentality.
“He’s always into the game. Anytime you need him to go into the game he’s right there, ready to roll.”
All the work the rugged, hit-seeking Tutogi has done for years has been to keep him prepared -- just in case. Well, “in case” is happening Saturday when Washington (2-0) plays Idaho State (2-0) at noon at Husky Stadium (Pac-12 Networks television, the Washington IMG College radio network and here on GoHuskies.com with another exclusive game chat with the live, streaming audio broadcast).
Timu bruised the rotator cuff in his right shoulder during the first half of the 34-24 win last week over Illinois in Chicago. He may not play Saturday.
Tutogi, a 6-foot, 242-pound senior who transferred two years ago from Southwestern Junior College in his hometown of Chula Vista, Calif., came in for Timu last weekend and had four tackles in two-plus quarters. He’s been calling the signals for the starting defense since.
Good thing he’s been studying for this chance.
“Yeah, I watch a lot on my iPad,” Tutogi said. “And then when I am at home, doing nothing, I’ll take a minute or two to watch some stuff. More practice. Then I apply it to our opponents.”
One of the newest additions to the 83,000-square-foot football operations center into which the Huskies moved last month under the west end of Husky Stadium is their in-house, XOS data system. The players’ new position rooms and coaches’ offices are linked electronically by XOS, a leader in football coaching technology. XOS provides the Huskies with wireless coaching software that is compatible with the iPads that the team has issued to each player.
Each coach has the portable tablet, as well, for game planning, film study and scheduling. A coach can draw plays on his iPad in his office using the XOS software. He can then download from his iPad to those of his players. The coach also takes his tablet down to the bottom floor to present those plays on a projected screen to players in their position meeting room. The players can follow along on their own devices and download the coach’s strategic creations, then take those schemes and video study home with them.
The iPads aren’t everyone’s favorite. Keith Price says he still takes game-plan notes with pen and paper., And the quarterback prefers to watch film with the old-school coaches’ clicker in his hand at the football operations center.
But the electronic tablet has been a huge reason Tutogi is prepared for chances like the one he is getting this week.
“Definitely. It’s not like we have to come down here to watch film anymore,” he said. “We can watch it wherever we are at, whenever we want.
“Even class if we want to,” he said, laughing.
Yes, he was joking – though classes don’t start for UW until the middle of next week.
Asked the weirdest place he’s ever used his iPad to watch game film – The beach? The park? Out at dinner? – Tutogi laughed and said: “Probably the bathroom.”
Now that’s ultra prepared.
Idaho State’s Justin Arias has two 400-yard passing games to begin this season, wins over Division-II Dixie State and Western State Colorado, as the Bengals have thrown 98 times in those two games. Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said Thursday that Idaho State might play at faster pace than Boise State did when the Broncos ran 88 plays in UW’s opener. Sarkisian said to expect a game Saturday at a pace similar to the break-neck one at which the Huskies and Boise State played in the first half on Aug. 31.
Some may think Tutogi – who describes himself as a “downhill, heavy-hitting linebacker” -- isn’t the best fit in the middle against a spread-out, no-huddle offense like Idaho State’s.
Sirmon, a former NFL linebacker, is not one of them.
“I don’t think so. My own opinion: You beat these spread teams with physical players,” Tutogi’s position coach said. “You don’t beat them with little guys that are fast. You need to take up space. You need to hit them. And you need to tackle.
“I think that is a huge component of having big, physical players.”
Which makes Idaho State right in Tutogi’s wheelhouse.
Even if Timu returns, Tutogi’s value as an ready run stopper may become even more handy next week when 2012 national rushing leader Ka’Deem Carey and undefeated Arizona come to Husky Stadium. Or the week after that, when the Huskies travel to smash-mouth Stanford.
“One guy goes down you have to step up and take charge,” Tutogi said. “And that’s what I’m going to do.”
His handy iPad notwithstanding, how hard is it for Tutogi to stay ready with Timu usually on the field instead of him?
“With John, it’s easy. Whatever I don’t understand John helps me out with,” Tutogi said. “So being behind someone like John, I’m not complaining about it. He’s always there when I need him. It’s fun being behind John.”
It’s about to get even more fun for Tutogi with what he sees as a prime opportunity this week.
”Oh, definitely,” he said. “And I’m going to run with it.’”
HONORING DON JAMES: Sarkisian believes he knows the perfect way to honor Don James.
"First and foremost, he’s still here fighting," Sarkisian said following a helmets-only practice Thursday morning.
Wednesday, James’ family released a statement through the UW athletic department that the “Dawgfather,” who led the Huskies to a 153-57-2 record from 1975 through ‘92 and won a share of the 1991 national championship, will begin chemotherapy Monday to fight pancreatic cancer.
"That’s what’s great about Coach James. He’s an unbelievable competitor (and there’s an) unbelievable toughness that he possesses," Sarkisian said.
"The second thing is, the best way we can honor Coach James is how we play, playing tough, hard-nosed, physical Husky football — which I think we are doing more of on a consistent basis.
"The best thing we can do is embody the characteristics that he possesses. That’s toughness, mental and physical toughness — and play a brand of football that he instilled here for decades."