Spring Preview: Tuiasosopo Interview

We talked with new inside receivers coach Marques Tuiasosopo about which receiver groups he'll be handling, and how this new offense compares to what UCLA ran last year...

Q: I saw you were calling yourself the inside wide receivers coach on Twitter, which seems fitting since there won't be a tight end in this offense. Is that going to entail you coaching just the Y, or the Y and the slot guy?

A: It's pretty much going to entail both the Y and the F, so I'm going to have both of those body types to work with.

Q: You've obviously had a bit more experience working with the personnel at UCLA than the other guys on staff. A guy like Joseph Fauria, obviously pretty experienced at tight end, how much of a switch will it be for him going to that Y position?

A: It's not going to be much switch at all. He's not going to notice much difference at all from what we had him doing last year. Obviously he's going to be attached to the line of scrimmage, just like he was last year. Maybe not as much, just because of our passing attack. But there shouldn't be too much difference in what we're going to ask him to do from what he's done in the past. He looks great now, and hopefully he's poised and hungry to have a great season. But, everything should be fine for him.

Q: Also at the Y you've got Darius Bell, who last year played a little bit of receiver for the scout team. How much of an adjustment has it been for him to get acclimated to possibly playing a bit of Y this spring?

A: It'll be a little bit of an adjustment for him coming over from the quarterback position, but the thing with Darius is he's so athletic, and he's been working his tail off in the offseason here to just get used to running more. That's probably the biggest adjustment that's going to take place for him. He's going to be running vertically down the field compared to dropping back and handing the ball off. So from a physical standpoint, all he needs to do is get himself in shape. But he's athletic enough that running routes, there'll be a little bit of a learning curve there at the beginning, but he'll be able to take off and run with it hopefully halfway through spring ball.

Q: So that's just more of a conditioning thing, getting him back into shape for running routes?

A: Yeah, you can go out there and run ten 100's and you'll be fine, but when you're asked to do it every period, it takes a little different toll on your body. So our strength coach understands what he needs to do. He's been doing a great job doing what he's been asked to do. And that's our biggest deal is to just make sure he's in shape to do that. And like I said, halfway through spring ball he should be well adjusted to that.

Q: So at the Y you've got a guy like Fauria, who's 6'8, and a guy like Bell, who's about 5'10, 5'11. Are you going to have to play the position differently depending on which guy is in?

A: Yea, you know what, they present different issues for the defense. Obviously, Joe's height is an advantage, but he's not, it doesn't hurt him. He's athletic, he can run, and he can stretch the middle of the field. And Darius, he's fast. Darius is probably a little bit faster than Joe, although he's obviously not as tall. And if he's running across the field or doing whatever it is he's doing, he can use his athletic ability to help him succeed. He's got great hands. At the Y position, we've got two great guys in terms of their hands and their ability to catch the ball. It'll be fun to see how it shakes out.

Q: As a former quarterback, and after a year of working pretty heavily with the quarterbacks, do you see that as an advantage now, working with receivers?

A: I definitely think it can be an advantage. I can help them understand the timing of the routes. I can help them understand why it's important for them to be at certain depths. [Laughs] You know, what body language means to a quarterback. And a lot of issues in route running is just understanding the timing of the route. OK, if I'm not the primary, I have time to work the route and develop it, because you're not the first progression. So hopefully that's something I can teach them, so they're not rushing through the route, thinking they need to get there, and all of a sudden they're standing there for two seconds, which is an eternity when you're running a route, waiting for the ball when in reality the quarterback is not even close to getting to that spot in the progression.

Q: Not to get too deeply into the practice plan, but are you and Coach Yarber going to be teaming up on a lot of the receiver drills, or will you be taking your guys off on your own?

A: I think there'll be a lot of times when we're together. I think a little bit of the skillset for the X and the Z, and the Y and F in a lot of cases is the same, but there is some difference. So we'll be together at times, but we'll also have separate periods where we can teach the individual nuances of being an inside receiver as opposed to an outside receiver.

Q: Probably one of those bigger differences is blocking, right?

A: No question. Those issues definitely, but also just some routes you'll run differently inside than you would outside, so any issue that would come up like that goes into what would be handled separately, and then Coach Yarber can address what he needs to address with the outside guys.

Q: As a guy who was here before most of the rest of the staff, how much did you see it as your role to help the rest of the staff learn about the guys on the team this year?

A: For the most part, I didn't want to say really too much. With change, with a new coach, it's a new opportunity. There's new life. And I tried as hard as I could not to interject my opinions, only when asked about our personnel. Because it's only fair to them as coaches to let them evaluate. I didn't want them to have someone else's evaluation of the current players here. We'll have plenty of time by the end of spring ball to have an idea of how it's all going to shake out. If they asked I was able to give them my opinion, but for the most part, I just thought about it how I would want it to be if I was coming in with them, without any knowledge of what we have here. I would like to have a fresh set of eyes, and to be able to evaluate it myself. That's kind of the approach I took.

Q: I was talking with Coach Ulbrich and he said you and he knew each other from your time in the NFL up in the Bay Area. Did you know a lot of the new staff coming into this year?

A: Yeah, it's just funny how things shake out, and it's an awesome opportunity for me. I've known Coach Yarber, well let's start at the top. I've known Coach Mora for probably twelve years now. Obviously we graduated from the same university, but then I got the chance to play against him when he was a defensive coordinator with the 49ers. And then we would just connect before the game, because we were alumni of the same university. And do that throughout my years in the NFL. And then when he became the head coach at Seattle, we were in the same area, and I'd pop over there or he'd pop over when we had free time. And then our offensive coordinator, when I was with the Jets in 2007, Noel was the wide receivers coach. And we connected there, so I've been in contact with him since that time. I've known Coach Yarber since he spent some time at University of Washington. I'd go back and work out, so I got to know him there. Coach Broussard, I used to watch the Apple Cup growing up in Seattle. He was a Cougar, and he played in the league, so when I got into coaching in 2009, he was either at Wazzu or Arizona State, we'd always just bump heads at the 50 yard line before the game, and say Hi and catch up. So that's how I know him. And then to be around them as an offensive unit has just been great. And for the most, aside from a couple of guys on the defensive side, I've had prior knowledge of most of these guys from before. And Ulbrich, I played against him, and we'd always talk before and after the game, and so it's great that we can all be together.

Q: It seems this staff was almost drawn up for chemistry purposes as much as recruiting or coaching.

A: Yeah, it's been great. We were talking to, well, we had a recruit come in, and it's like we've only been together for five weeks. This is back before we signed our 2012 class, but you would think that we'd been together for three years. You have to credit Coach Mora, who did a great job of bringing together a group of guys who either know each other or are like minded or who get along for the most part. And I think the excitement around this offense, we all just can't wait to get to spring ball. We're all headed in the same direction.

Q: You were here, obviously, last year, so I wanted to get your perspective on the pistol vs. this spread. Do you think they're as close to opposite types of offenses as you can get?

A: I think there's some similarity, actually. Obviously, with Noel's history, all of his quarterbacks have thrown for a lot of yards. And you know, I think he's had some great quarterbacks, and he's developed some great quarterback play. But there's a lot of similar runs that we do that we did last year, and sure, there's a lot of different ones. I don't know if it's safe to say it's a complete opposite. I think if you look at the numbers, you'd have to say yes, but I think if the quarterback's playing well, which I think last year we did at times and didn't do so well at other times, our numbers would be a lot higher. But from a standpoint of how different is it, I don't know if it's completely on the other side of the spectrum.

Q: Gotcha, more of a results look than huge differences in individual plays.

A: Yeah, I just think it's more of a you get hot throwing the ball, with confidence, you can put a lot of numbers up. But obviously I think it's safe to say that we won't be as run heavy as the pistol was in the past. But hey if you look at what they did at Arizona State, they still had guys who rushed for 1200 yards.

Q: Last year, you were working pretty heavily with the QB's, and given what you've seen, do you think any of the guys you worked with are ready to take on the mantle of handling a spread offense that is more pass oriented?

A: Well, it's all about fit, and you never know until you get out there and do it. And I think that's why we're all excited about spring ball, because you talk about getting a fresh, new look at life with the new coaching changes and our new scheme changes. And even though it's the same field, and the same ball, and it might be the same play that they've run last year, but it just feels different. And you just look at it through a different lens. And that just might be what everyone needs. So I think that's why we're all excited to get out there and playing, so we can start moving forward on the football field.

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